LAS VEGAS (March 16, 2017) — Computer technology is improving the comfort and performance of the newest automobiles, but it also is creating a legal dilemma for the aftermarket.
Aftermarket parts manufacturers, and even auto shops, could run afoul of copyright law when trying to modify software in a vehicle, according to a panel of automotive and legal experts at the Automotive Aftermarket Parts Expo in Las Vegas last November.
New vehicles are coming loaded with embedded software. Mechanically driven parts are now being driven by software — which provides both benefits and challenges, according to the panel.
The panel stressed that there is a difference between embedded software that runs the functions of the vehicle and telematics, which are the data the car creates.
"We don't really think of our cars as super computers," said Michael Keely, senior vice president of product for Dorman Products Inc.
"Today's vehicle has about 100 million lines of code in it. If you think of other technologically advanced devices—the military's next generation fighter has 40 million lines of code; the PC you use, with the operating system and Office suite, probably has about 70 million lines of code.
"So the car really is the most technologically advanced thing you interface with on a daily basis," he said.
Mr. Keely gave the example of a full-size General Motors SUV platform that in 2000 contained nine modules to communicate across one network; in 2015 there were 70.
"This proliferation is just going to accelerate. It's not going to slow down," Mr. Keely said.