By Matt Stout Globe Staff,Updated October 14, 2020, 12:01 a.m.
Question 1 on the November Ballot seeks to expand the state’s Right to Repair law. Above, a “yes” ad (on top) and a “no” ad.
A ballot question that would expand the state’s so-called Right to Repair law is unlikely to produce immediate, widescale benefits for independent mechanics, nor does it appear to expose sensitive personal data such as a car’s GPS location to greater risk of unauthorized disclosure, according to a third-party analysis of the highly complicated initiative.
The report released Wednesday by the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University does not take a position on Question 1, which would require automakers to explicitly provide independent repair shops with access to the computerized diagnostic data transmitted wirelessly from a car.
But it suggests that the scale of cybersecurity threats carmakers have warned of should the question pass — and the monopolistic advantage mechanics say car dealers would gain if it doesn’t — have both been overblown by costly advertising campaigns.
It’s also laid bare a high-stakes industry battle, with voters plunked in the middle. How they choose could potentially have national ramifications and, regardless of the outcome on Nov. 3, the debate has underscored an issue ripe for legislative action, the report states.
“You can think of this year’s right-to-repair ballot question as the latest move in the cat-and-mouse game, an effort by independent mechanics and their allies to close the information gap and ensure that owners have an array of repair options,” according to the nine-page report released Wednesday. “How much this will matter on the ground is unclear.”
The ballot question is a sequel to a 2012 initiative that voters approved, allowing independent repair shops to plug into a car and access the same digital codes that car dealers and their mechanics do to help diagnose problems.
This time, the initiative would require car manufacturers to create a platform for sharing wireless data known as telematics, and calls for the development of apps that would make it possible for car owners to both see their own data and share them with an independent mechanic.