Redding: Data access is the new information availability

ASA encourages data access for repairers

Why should repairers be interested in what’s going on with autonomous vehicle policy, data access and cybersecurity? Because having the right tools and the right information to repair vehicles are critical elements to the longevity of a successful automotive repair business.

Those reasons apply to both mechanical and collision repairers. Without access to important data, repairers will struggle to provide consumers the level of service necessary to sustain their businesses.

At the center of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) legislative debate was the issue of service information, or better known as “information availability.” The Automotive Service Association (ASA) worked diligently to get language into the CAAA that required, “manufacturers to provide promptly to any person engaged in the repairing or servicing of motor vehicles or motor vehicle engines … with any and all information needed to make use of the emission control diagnostics system … including instructions for making emission related diagnosis and repairs.”

“No such information may be withheld … if that information is provided (directly or indirectly) by the manufacturer to franchised dealers or other persons engaged in the repair, diagnosing, or servicing of motor vehicles or motor vehicle engines.”

It required several attempts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get a workable information availability regulation, as well as an industry agreement to assure new automaker websites included non-emissions information. Most industry experts agree that the current process works for the independent repair industry.

With the onslaught of new vehicle technologies and much public policy focus on autonomous vehicles (AV), automotive repairers are again at a critical juncture for the future. The term in the early 1990s was “information availability,” but today’s terminology is “data access.” ASA is an active member of multiple coalitions addressing new vehicle technologies, data access and cybersecurity, including:

Ad Hoc HAV Data Access Coalition

Aftermarket Telematics Task Force

Coalition for Future Mobility

Global Alliance for Vehicle Data Access

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution (H.R.) 3388, the SELF DRIVE Act, which clarified state and federal roles in the autonomous vehicle policy arena. However, the SELF DRIVE Act did not address the data access issue for independent repairers.

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee did address data access in its AV START Act, S. 1885. U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., offered an amendment addressing data access during the Committee markup, which was agreed to. The Inhofe Amendment establishes a HAV Data Access Advisory Committee at NHTSA. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has shown much interest in the vehicle cybersecurity policy area, was also included in the advisory committee at NHTSA. This stakeholder committee provides for automotive industry participation, including “independent vehicle repairers.”

The Senate bill has not been considered on the floor of that body to date. It is important for independent repairers that the Inhofe Amendment be included in the final AV legislation sent to the president.

As important as information availability was to the repair industry, data access is taking an even larger public-policy role. This issue does not have to be contentious and hopefully will be resolved by the automotive industry. ASA will continue to be part of this conversation.