Federal government tells carmakers not to comply with Massachusetts' 'right to repair' law

A Massachusetts law requiring automobile manufacturers to boost access to telematic vehicle data "conflicts with and therefore is preempted" by federal law, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday.

The federal government's highway division effectively told manufacturers not to comply with the Bay State's telematic data law, which has been mired in a legal battle since voters enacted it via ballot question in 2020. The law's supporters have hoped that it will broaden access to vehicle information to give consumers more choices when they need repairs.

In a letter to companies filed in federal court, NHTSA officials said the Massachusetts law "poses significant safety concerns" because the access to vehicle telematic data it requires could allow for manipulation of steering, acceleration, braking and air bags.

"A malicious actor here or abroad could utilize such open access to remotely command vehicles to operate dangerously, including attacking multiple vehicles concurrently," NHTSA Assistant Chief Counsel for Litigation and Enforcement Kerry Kolodziej wrote. "Vehicle crashes, injuries, or deaths are foreseeable outcomes of such a situation."

Kolodziej concluded that NHTSA "expects vehicle manufacturers to fully comply with their Federal safety obligations," which in the agency's opinion preempt the voter-approved state law.

The letter drew sharp criticism from independent auto repair shops and other groups that fought for passage of the reform, which sailed through at the ballot box with 75% of voters in support and 25% opposed.



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