NHTSA issued a statement on June 13 notifying 22 vehicle makers with assembly operations in the U.S. that the agency's position is that provisions of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act) pre-empted Massachusetts' Right to Repair law, and that complying with the Massachusetts law would "conflict with (their) obligations under the Safety Act."
More specifically, NHTSA said a malicious actor "could utilize such open access to remotely command vehicles to operate dangerously, including attacking multiple vehicles concurrently."
NHTSA added that "open access to vehicle manufacturers' telematics offerings with the ability to remotely send commands allows for manipulation of systems on a vehicle, including safety-critical functions such as steering, acceleration, or braking."
Massachusetts' Right to Repair law — passed by voters in November 2020 — requires vehicle makers that sell vehicles in the Commonwealth to equip them with a standardized open-data platform so that owners and independent mechanics can access vehicle telematics data for repairs, maintenance and diagnostics.
The law passed via ballot initiative, with nearly three-fourths of Massachusetts residents voting in favor. Vehicle manufacturers spent $25 million to oppose the initiative and filed suit to stop the law from going into effect weeks after it passed, the two Massachusetts senators said in their letter.
Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell began enforcing the law on June 1, following two years of legal process.
"It is disappointing that NHTSA's letter relies on the argument pushed by major automobile manufacturers that there is, in this case, an irresolvable conflict between maintaining data security and providing independent repair shops with the data they need to conduct repairs," the senators wrote.
"Auto manufacturers have routinely raised safety concerns as a way to 'change the subject' and distract consumers from the fact that 'vehicle repair and maintenance services from independent repair shops keeps the cost of service and repair down.'"