back to article Heck yeah, we should have access to our own cars' repair data: Voters in US state approve a landmark right-to-repair ballot measure

Voters in Massachusetts have approved a ballot measure that is widely being interpreted as a major win for the right-to-repair movement. Question 1, to which 75 per cent of voters answered "yes", asked whether carmakers should provide vehicle diagnostics data to individuals and independent repair shops. The “Right to Repair …

  1. Drew Scriver

    Cars collect some interesting data...

    A while back I hooked up my Toyota Corolla to my laptop and accessed the on-board data. Quite interesting and revealing.

    For instance, it reports the actual tire/tyre pressure for each individual tire. However, the dashboard indicator is just a simple light that will merely show a general "one of your tires is below the threshold". No details even on which tire/tyre. It would be trivial and inexpensive to show those details. But for that I'd have to upgrade to a much more expensive model, of course.

    The most intriguing metric, however, is the weight of the front passenger. So far I have resisted the temptation to install an LCD in the dashboard to display that value... ;-)

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

      But you could claim it was only there so that you could adjust the suspension to compensate.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        In reality, it uses that measure to guess if someone is seated or if you just landed your bag there, so as to decide if it needs to show the seat belt reminder or not

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          This is why I always use the seatbelt to secure bags and/or shopping when on the front seat. It's doesn't seem to take all that much weight for the system to decide it's a person and start binging at me as I pull away. A decently loaded shopping bag will almost always trigger it.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

            Plus it prevents distributing your shopping across the passenger footwell if you have to brake hard.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

              Not to mention not having loose objects flying around the cabin in the event of a rollover, causing (further) injury. Do secure your shit.

              1. onemark03 Bronze badge

                Do secure your shit.

                Better still, simply put it in the boot - or at the very least in the back seat.

                Simple.

        2. Blake St. Claire

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          More important, it has to decide to arm the airbag or not.

          You don't want the airbag to fire it in a minor accident if there's nobody sitting there. And you want to make sure you do fire it if there is someone.

          1. Drew Scriver

            Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

            Agreed, but they could have just installed a sensor that triggered above a set force. Turning the seat into an actual scale seems overkill.

            But it would be funny to install that LCD and display the actual weight of the passenger. Would be a great conversation starter...

            "What's that number in front of me? I've noticed it before, but it used to be below 100. Now it's over a 100."

            "Oh, that. It's a metric mass gauge. Came with the car."

            1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

              Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

              Modern airbags aren't just a fire and forget system. They're usually integrated with a number of different measures like how big a bang is needed to slow a moving body down, if the seat belt pretensioners are needed etc.

              With regards to tyres saying which is low... Yes. That is a cynical move. Some models of car have it regardless of spec since the inbuilt display can give the details.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

      The BMW software allowed you to see the RPMs of each piston (I kid not). Was fascinating to see differing RPMs :-) And, of course, over fuelling on one piston, which I never worked out

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        >Was fascinating to see differing RPMs :-)

        As long as they average out in the long run - otherwise you have to manually untwist the crankshaft

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          and the camshafts?

          This implies multiple semsors, I can't think why they would ever need to go beyond a single crankshaft TDC marker for counting RPM, (informing the ECU for ignition timing is the primary reason).

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

            It;s a typical case of marketing being in charge of engineering ... "We CAN, therefore we MUST!". Thinking about it was never a part of the equation.

      2. ckm5

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        That's a calculated value and uses other data to figure that out. It can also use electrical consumption data at startup to calculate compression in each cylinder.... You can do the same manually with an oscilloscope.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        "Was fascinating to see differing RPMs"

        That's "RPM". Unless they are measuring revolutions per minutes. And how many minutes was it, exactly?

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          1 revolution per minute, 2 revolutions per minute

          Plural s goes on the revolution because there’s more than one of them in a singular minute

          1 RPM, we agree. How to pluralise it if there’s more than 1?

          RsPM doesn’t seem right, so I’ll go for RPMs.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

            The plural is implied in the R when you have more than one RPM ... or so my grandfathers beat[0] into me. My instructors at CDM school and OMC school were equally adamant that there is never a trailing s after RPM, regardless of what the ignorant NASCAR commentards seem to think.

            [0] They never actually raised a hand in my general direction ... but I was absolutely certain that they would if I crossed the line too far. So I just smeared it about a trifle ...

        2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          Err, I'd suggest that RPMs is correct - singular "RPM" for one cylinder, multiple "RPM"s for multiple cylinders.

      4. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        "... differing RPMs ..."

        Really? Evidence that I've been seriously misled about how internal combustion engines work? It's hard to see how the revolution counts could differ by more than one or at most two (due to quantization error). Either we're witnessing quantum mechanical affects at a macro scale or the engine firmware is a bit off. DevOps strikes again?

        And what are they counting? It's not like piston-crankshaft synchronization are optional in an engine that is not in the terminal stages of self destruction.

        Maybe they are counting ignition pulses to each cylinder? That'd be feasible I suppose and perhaps meaningful in engines that do cylinder deactivation?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          "It's not like piston-crankshaft synchronization are optional in an engine that is not in the terminal stages of self destruction."

          I had a string trimmer with that issue once. Specifically, when the starter cable was pulled, the crankshaft rotated more times than the number of piston movements (zero)...

          The electric replacement was absolutely worth the $100.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

            Ah, yes, those chinesium conrods ... For the record, you could probably have bought a new replacement powerhead for under $30 on fleabay. Me, I'll stick with my 30ish year old Stihl FS-120 ... It's probably overkill for most home owners, but sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

      5. TomG
        WTF?

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        I suppose the software also coordinates the ignition system so the spark that ignites the fuel at the appropriate time. I kid you. Is fascinating how your mind works.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          Actually, some of them do adjust the spark timing via computer.

          https://itstillruns.com/symptoms-retarded-ignition-timing-12229315.html

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          Modern engines do exactly that, Tom. There is a trigger on the crank that tells the computer when TDC is, and the computer then tells to coils (and sometimes the injectors) to fire at the appropriate point (advanced or retarded[0]), according to all kinds of mostly analogue factors. Tuning a modern engine for performance involves more computer tweaking than getting grease under the nails.

          [0] Am I allowed to use "retarded' as a technical term here, or are the namby-pamby hand-wringers going to call for my head on a platter?

    3. ckm5

      Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

      That's only the data you can easily see - if you have access to the Toyota scantool, you can also see acceleration, speed, g-force and all kinds of sensor data. Some cars even store GPS coordinates of each action, but even whithout that, there is a wealth of other data like altitude, wheel orientation, etc.

      Weight of the passenger is what turns the passenger airbag on & off....

      Edit: depending on the year, your Corolla might also have a black box that records data just before an accident - it is only accessible by Toyota but it's come up in a number of lawsuits.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

      Instead of a dashboard light, I use the simple "glance at tires as I approach vehicle" method. Has never steered me wrong ... Far fewer parts to go wrong, and much less weight in the vehicle. What's not to like?

      As for the weight of the front passenger, that would require wires to the thing ... .not bloody likely on any car in my stable. Here, a seat is just a seat. Nowt to fuck up means nowt to repair.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        As for the weight of the front passenger, that would require wires to the thing ... .not bloody likely on any car in my stable

        We have proper winters here and bum heater wiring is the bestest thing ever. Truly, splendour in the ass.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        I manually checked the air in my tires (0), and often discover a tire is low despite looking fine. It's not a reliable method. Running 5 psi low increases wear on the outsides of the tire, leading to more frequent replacement.

        (0) The batteries in the tire pressure sensors are dead, and I'm not paying $500 to replace them. I'll use my $3 pressure gauge, thank you.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

          I eyeball 'em every time I drive the car, if anything is obviously wrong I fix it. I stick a pressure gauge on 'em every second or third fill-up. Probably three times per month, same as I check the fluids & etc.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cars collect some interesting data...

        > Has never steered me wrong

        Aside from the obvious visual inspection, do you check your actual tyre pressures with a gauge or something? If not, how do you know that you are driving at the right pressure for the conditions?

        And what happens if you have a flat while driving? No, it's not always obvious. Especially in cases of partial deflation.

  2. Cederic Silver badge

    wrong focus

    Seems to me The Register is ignoring a far bigger and much more important vote that took place yesterday in the US and that still hasn't had a definitive outcome.

    The one in Colorado:

    https://www.denverpost.com/2020/11/03/colorado-proposition-114-election-results-gray-wolves/

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: wrong focus

      Even that is politicised.

      They are proposing importing timber wolves from Canada - but if they called them "Canadian Wolves" people would vote no (damn immigrant predators coming over here ....) so they are calling them "gray wolves"

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: wrong focus

        I take your point about importing Canadian wolves, the importing of Mexican wolves (almost identical animal) into Arizona & New Mexico 20 years ago would generate some interesting headlines these days.

        Calling them grey or timber is just local variation, they (as a species) were padding about the continent long before anyone decided to draw a map with a line across the middle.

        1. Nunyabiznes

          Re: wrong focus

          Gray and timber wolves are quite a bit different. Timbers are generally bigger and more aggressive than grays. They also have more color variation (minor point).

          It is kind of a moot vote though. The Clinton administration got timber wolves introduced into Yellowstone park in the mid-90s (earlier than official documents show, btw) and those wolves have spread widely.

          There were native wolves in Montana at that time (as well as northern Idaho and North Dakota and maybe more states but I can't testify to those). I scoped several while hunting the northern portions of Montana, Idaho and ND over the years between 85 and 95 before official introduction.

          There was a case in Idaho where a hunter killed what he thought was a big coyote (which was legal). He turned it into Idaho Fish and Game where he was promptly given a ticket, fined and had his rifle and truck confiscated for killing a wolf. Eventually the courts declared that it couldn't be a wolf because legally the wolf was extinct in the US. This was right at the time the timber wolves were introduced into YNP. The wolf team denied it was one of theirs (because they insisted they knew where every one was and it would look dodgy if they acknowledged it was theirs). So either there were already wolves in the area, or the Fed wolf team was lying. Or both.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: wrong focus

            And here is a related article for Minnesota

            https://www.minnpost.com/environment/2020/02/heres-how-much-minnesota-has-paid-out-for-wolf-kills-of-livestock-over-the-last-two-decades/

            I know protection of wolves used to be unpopular in the northern part of the state but it's been quite a few years since I've been up there, talked to any locals.

            I used to hunt raccoons with dogs up there a lot.

            I personally never had any wolf trouble, but one of my friends did have two of his dogs killed one night.

            Just another one of those things surrounded by varying, passionate opinions. Depending on where people reside, their livelihood.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: wrong focus

            > So either there were already wolves in the area, or the Fed wolf team was lying. Or both.

            Sounds like the old coyote in wolf skin trick.

  3. Alumoi Silver badge

    How about cars manufactured before 2022?

    Yeah, I though so. All current owners are SOL.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: How about cars manufactured before 2022?

      "Yeah, I though so. All current owners are SOL."

      My cars were all manufactured before 2022, and I have no problem repairing any of them. Mind you, the youngest is the '92 Taurus SHO ... none of the others is younger than 1972.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: How about cars manufactured before 2022?

      Came here to say the same thing.

      Effectively this ballot measure is neutered before it even comes into force, and is useless for 99.99% of cars on the road in Massachusetts.

      C+ : well intentioned, should try harder.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: How about cars manufactured before 2022?

        "C+ : well intentioned, should try harder."

        C- : Feel-good legislation. Must try harder.

        Still, as TFA pointed out, it's a start. And ThePeople have told the Industry that they are finally noticing that they are getting screwed over, and aren't very happy about it.

  4. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    This isn't just a civilian issue

    In the US, even combat vehicles have click-wrap-style restrictions on what military mechanics in a war zone are allowed to fix.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: This isn't just a civilian issue

      Yet another case of beancounters stuffing things up to extract 'value' from a support contract.

      from the NYT article >>>views expressed were made in her personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect those of the Marine Corps<<<

      I'll put money on anyone wearing a tin kevlar hat being in full agreement, the military have to practise in realistic conditions. (ideally with everything bar incoming ordnance)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: This isn't just a civilian issue

      Also the reason that RAF Conningsby is colloquially known by the uniformed residents as BAE Conningsby.

  5. BitDr

    Calling it the "Vehicle Data Access Requirement Initiative" is language designed to narrow the scope and keep consumer electronics out of it. Watch for weasel wording such as this and call out anyone who tries to use it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I'd guess it's aimed at what the voters might understand and support whilst at the same time being the thin end of the case opener.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "the thin end of the case opener."

        AKA a spudger :-)

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Coalition for Safe and Secure Data"

    Sir Humphrey would have approved.

    1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
      Devil

      Safe and Secure Data

      I too was highly amused by the name; their perspective, no doubt, is that it is safe and secure if they have exclusive access to it for their own (telemetry? marketing? ad-slinging?) purposes.

      It is not safe for them if people suddenly figure out just what data these vehicles are actually collecting.

      As for uploading and GPS co-ordinates, it is quite simple to make the appear to come from somewhere else as spoofing a GPS receiver is pretty much a doddle these days. Might be fun to change the co-ordinates by a hundred miles or so every couple of minutes :)

      As for the data link, it is not that difficult to emulate 'poor signal conditions' with an appropriate RF sink (which basically attracts a large percentage of the energy coming from the transmitter - coupled with a random number generator it would look like a noisy link).

  7. Nunyabiznes

    John Deere

    Hopefully the big green and yellow company gets caught up in this also. Many farmers are left in the field waiting on a JD tech to show up and reset something as minor as an oil or air filter change warning. The tractor will either turn off or go into limp mode even if service has been completed because the farmer can't reset the hour meter.

    There is a growing market for rebuilt vintage tractors just because of this kind of nonsense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: John Deere

      Tractors can last a long time, if looked after. I'm old enough to retire, I have a picture here of me as a toddler sitting on a Fordson Major tractor, belonging to my grandfather, in the 1960s. The same tractor is still in occasional use today, having been sold in the late 1970s by my grandfather's estate to a farm in a local village. It might not be as powerful or as easy to drive as a more modern tractor. It only has a roll bar, rather that a cab, so you need a coat when it is cold or wet. Some parts may be getting a bit harder to get but anyone with some common sense could fit them.

      1. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

        Re: John Deere, Fordson

        We have one a little older than that - a 1953 "Little Grey Fergie" (Fergusson TE20). We use it mostly to extract other vehicles that have got stuck. This is a Tractor Vapourising Oil (TVO) model and obtaining something that's close enough to original TVO is generally the biggest headache. I certainly don't think it has been recording my weight over the years!

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: John Deere, Fordson

          Ah, the good old Grey Fergie - I learned to drive on one of those, though it was a diesel. Farm also had a TVO model with a loader on it that was "interesting" to drive as it had an underneath exhaust and the silencer box was rotten - so a glowing hot pipe directly under your left foot whenever it was on the clutch, a place it spends a fair bit of time when using the loader to transfer the midden into the muckspreader. And to think of how much you could adjust or repair with nothing but the "Fergie spanner" :)

          It was always a good trick to get someone who'd never driven one before to start it - without telling them where the starter was. They could be looking for ages :D Same looking for the parking brake on the old MF 35 (it's a spring loaded ratchet on the brake pedal).

          Have to admit, for all the benefits of the newer ones, the older ones can be just as good - and if you have to work in similarly vintage buildings with restricted headroom, the only way to get things done.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: John Deere

      Any elected politicians (of any party or ideological stripe) serious about helping America's "heartland" should give this item serious attention. I am not a farmer, but for all the blather about helping the people who make our food, there does not seem to be much real help being offered beyond wodges of giveaways to ConAgra, Tyson, and the rest of Big Ag. This would be a small thing that might make a real difference to local/family farms.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: John Deere

        But farmers are hard working symbols of the American heartland, they wouldn't take anything as communist as a government handout

    3. StephenH

      Re: John Deere

      John Deere tractor owners have been using hacked firmware from Ukraine for years

      https://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/john-deere-tractor-hacks-ukrainian/

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Manufacturers should be charged for pollution

    Manufacturers should be charged for pollution caused by throwing away whatever they make, and basic repairs needed over it's 'lifetime'.* They shouldn't make more money by making devices that break down more.

    *if a user intentionally does something to break things, the user should pay for repairs

  9. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Data laws

    I expect that in the EU (and currently the UK) data protection legislation means that owners have a right to the data their motor vehicles collect. Although I have to say, submitting a Subject Access Request to my car's Engine Management System does seem like overkill.

    The companies would have to explain the collection of data and what their lawful purpose is, and due to competition legislation, preventing anyone other than their tied mechanics repairing the vehicle would be tricky to defend in court.

    OTOH My car was 21 this year, so probably does not collect very much data about me, particularly as I rarely drive it these days of "LockDown II: The Return of the Virus".

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