Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog

Your Data or Your Life

by Roger Lanctot | Mar 10, 2022

A Massachusetts Data Access Law for automobiles – overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2020 as an amendment to the State’s existing right-to-repair law – may be compromising the safety of new car buyers in the New England state. The Law, which requires vehicles to be equipped with “an interoperable standardized and open access platform across all of the manufacturer’s makes and models” has caused car makers Kia and Subaru to disable telematics systems on new cars sold in the state.

In other words, car makers are turning off systems that provide emergency crash notification in order to avoid compliance with data access regulations. Coming as this law does on the heels of the widely reported 3G shutoff by wireless carriers, it represents yet another infringement on safe motor vehicle operation and further compromises the universal adoption of more advanced 9-1-1 crash notification solutions now arriving in the form of so-called next-gen 911 technology capable of transmitting data from a crash scene directly to first responders and public service access points.

The Massachusetts law was frozen from taking effect by a legal challenge on behalf of the automotive industry from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) filed shortly after its passage. AAI claims that, among other things, the deadline for compliance with the law (to take effect for all model year 2022 vehicles) was impossible to meet, and that OEMs could not comply with the law without violating federal safety and environmental laws.

A ruling on the AAI challenge was anticipated for Monday of this week, March 7, but yesterday the responsible federal judge announced he would postpone his decision by five weeks due to the fact that Massachusetts courts had only recently begun post-COVID face-to-face hearings.

According to RepairerDrivenNews.com:  “At issue in the case is whether disabling telematics on vehicles sold in Massachusetts, as Subaru and Kia have done, constitutes compliance with the law. Attorney General Maura Healey, defending the law, has argued that it does; AAI has countered that Subaru and Kia have merely ‘avoided’ the law. ‘[T]urning off telematics simply does not create [the required] platform — let alone by model year 2022,’ the Alliance wrote in a brief.”

“Woodlock had previously set a Nov. 2, 2021 deadline for issuing a decision, but postponed that date to accept post-trial evidence after Healey’s office brought the actions by Subaru and Kia to light.”

Observers of the actions by Massachusetts voters and the response by Kia and Subaru have been perplexed and bemused. State laws such as Massachusetts’ existing right to repair law tend to have a national impact given the inability to geofence vehicle functions such as data access.

The new law appears to give Massachusetts the authority to tell auto makers how to design their connected vehicle systems. The extraordinary reactions of Kia and Subaru, in proposing to turn off their telematics systems in cars sold in Massachusetts is both a rational response and completely absurd.

Requiring auto makers to create and adopt interoperable telematics systems enabling access to vehicle data would unavoidably impact all cars made by every auto maker throughout the U.S. It will be interesting to see what the federal judge in Massachusetts decides.

Turning off telematics systems to comply with or avoid enforcement of such a law is an unintended and highly unfortunate outcome. This is especially so in the context of compromising consumer safety by turning off automatic crash notification systems.

The importance of advanced crash notification technology will be highlighted at this year’s National Automobile Dealer Association event where Roadside Telematics will be introducing its emergency response platform for connected cars designed to transmit vehicle data directly to first responders and public service access points. It would be a shame if life-saving advances such as this new solution from Roadside Telematics were to be stymied by ill-considered legislation voted in by well meaning Massachusetts residents. Surely this is not what the voting public had in mind.

 
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