The initiative is aimed at rectifying a loophole in the original Right To Repair measure, passed eight years ago, which required automakers to sell to independent repair shops in Massachusetts the same digital diagnostic tools and software they provide to their own dealerships.
Now, drive a Ford or a Toyota or a Mercedes into pretty much any repair shop, not just here in Massachusetts but across the country, and a mechanic can plug into the vehicle and talk to all of its onboard computers.
But the carmakers stopped short of providing those mechanics with remote access to the data your car can transmit wirelessly, a huge convenience for vehicle owners, who don’t have to first drive to the repair shop to have a problem diagnosed. A large and growing number of vehicles are capable of this — GM cars equipped with the company’s OnStar system, for instance.
“This is like an end run around the intent of the original law,” said Bob Denley, a car mechanic in Lee who backs Question 1.
Both sides have pitched the ballot question in apocalyptic terms: The independent repair shops say they will go out of business without it; lobbyists for the auto companies warn that passage would make it easier for sexual predators and other undesirables to get access to personal information from your vehicle.
But a fascinating video produced for automotive regulators in the European Union shows what’s really at stake.
A couple driving through the French countryside notices that a tire is going flat. Like many late-model vehicles, this car announces the bad news on a dashboard video screen. But we also see an icon that lets the passenger instantly phone a nearby repair shop, and then tap another to instantly relay the relevant information.
Miles away, the mechanic says, “Ah,