Every week there are too many developments in the world of repair for any mere mortal to keep track of. Fortunately, the folks over at the Fight to Repair newsletter are here to help: recapping the most important repair news for iFixit readers. As a special offer, iFixit.com readers can claim a free, 60-day premium membership to the Fight to Repair newsletter. Visit fighttorepair.substack.com/ifixit.
The Department of Transportation is facing backlash for a letter challenging Massachusetts repair law. More than a week after sending a letter to automakers urging them not to comply with a 2020 Massachusetts law that gives vehicle owners access to telematics data needed for repair, NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is being criticized for backing anti-competitive practices. “Consumers are tired of having the things we’ve paid for tethered to distant manufacturers who can tell us what we can and can’t do with our stuff. The data generated by my car should belong to me,” said Nathan Proctor of US PIRG.
The letter also drew the ire of Massachusetts’s two senators, Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren. In a letter dated June 16, 2023, the two senators accused NHTSA of “circumventing the legal process, contradicting a judicial order, undermining Massachusetts voters, harming competition and hurting consumers.” The letters, sent two weeks after Massachusetts’s Attorney General began enforcing the law “caused unnecessary confusion by raising this novel view” of the law.
The Auto Care Association, which represents more than 500,000 automotive aftermarket products and services suppliers, wrote to NHTSA and took aim at the agency’s inaccurate reading of the Massachusetts law—which aligns with the position of automotive OEMs and their trade group. “NHTSA’s summary conclusion is based on its belief that the Data Access Law requires ‘open remote access to vehicle telematics,’ whereby vehicle data would be unencrypted and allow anyone to remotely send commands to a vehicle to manipulate safety-critical functions,” wrote ACA President and CEO William J. Hanvey. “This is not the case. NHTSA appears to have adopted the Alliance for Automotive Innovation’s…overly broad interpretation of the Data Access Law that is belied by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s more reasonable interpretation and the language of the law itself.”
And, in an article on Forbes.com, SecureRepairs.org founder (and Fight to Repair editor-in-chief) Paul Roberts called out NHTSA for its inconsistent attention to the very real cybersecurity risks in vehicle telematics systems:
“Consider: the flaws uncovered by Curry and other researchers are actual examples of the kind of safety risks that NHTSA is claiming may hypothetically be possible as a result of the Massachusetts law being enforced.
“Using the standard floated by NHTSA in its letter to automakers, it would seem that modern telematics systems already deployed on vehicles are likely to violate the terms of the Safety Act and should be recalled by automakers to address the kinds of cybersecurity flaws recently uncovered.
“So NHTSA is on that, right? Apparently not. The agency’s letter last week made no mention of Curry’s research or recent, glaring cybersecurity failings of automakers. Similarly, a review of ongoing NHTSA safety investigations shows no record of any active inquiries into the telematics flaws Curry, Shine, Rajesh and others disclosed.”
- European Union proposes durability rules: The European Commission proposed new rules for mobile phones, tablets, and cordless phones, making them more durable, energy-efficient, and easier to repair. The rules include displaying energy efficiency and reparability scores, ensuring durable batteries and availability of spare parts, and promoting longer operating system upgrades.
- Upcoming event: At an International Repair Café webinar on July 7th, speakers from Repair Cafés in various countries will share their views. Also, a legal officer of the European Commission will talk about the implications of the proposed repair directive for Repair Cafés.
- Project finds clothing repair sustainable, but expensive. More than 700 garments were repaired and sold in San Francisco, raising questions about the feasibility of continuing due to the high costs involved. The focus now shifts to urging clothing brands and retailers to embrace a circular economy that includes repairing and recycling damaged items.
- Amazon’s Alexa won’t call Amazon monopoly: Alexa is okay criticizing other tech giants such as Apple and Google for alleged antitrust violations and privacy breaches, but not Amazon, raising questions about the company’s efforts to protect its reputation amidst ongoing scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators.
- PlayStation hackers debate: The PS3 hacking scene is having contentious conversation about creativity and piracy debates. Balancing user rights with intellectual property protection, it is challenging console modding norms and sparks discussions on digital rights.