Grist OCT2023 / by / Read original article

Makara Heng / Pexels
Despite a “landmark” agreement, automakers and the repair industry are still fighting over who controls car data.

Leading American electric vehicle makers Tesla and Rivian are supporting a controversial pact between carmakers and automotive repair organizations that critics say is an attempt to undermine legislation that would make it easier for Americans to fix their cars.

For several years, the American car industry has been feuding with automotive service groups and right-to-repair advocates over who should control access to telematic data, information about speed, location, and performance that cars transmit wirelessly back to their manufacturers. Many in the automotive repair industry say this data is essential for fixing today’s computerized cars, and that it should be freely available to vehicle owners and independent shops. Increased access to telematic data, repair advocates argue, will drive down the cost of repair and keep vehicles on the roads for longer. This is particularly important for EVs, which must be used as long as possible to maximize their climate benefits and offset the environmental toll of manufacturing their metal-rich batteries.

These arguments have led members of Congress from both parties to introduce a bill called the REPAIR Act that would grant car owners, and the mechanics of their choosing, access to their telematic data. But the auto industry, which stands to make billions of dollars selling telematics to insurers, streaming radio services, and other third parties, contends that carmakers should be the gatekeepers of this data to avoid compromising vehicle safety.

In July, ahead of a congressional hearing on right-to-repair issues, an automotive industry trade group called the Alliance for Automotive Innovation announced it had struck a “landmark agreement” with repair groups regarding telematic data sharing — an agreement that ostensibly preempted the need for legislation. A few weeks later, Tesla and Rivian, neither of which is a member of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, announced their support for the agreement. The only problem? Major national organizations representing the automotive aftermarket and repair industries weren’t consulted about the agreement, don’t support it, and claim it won’t make cars easier to fix.

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