A Guide to Massachusetts Question 1: Expanding the Right to Repair Law

Question 1 on the November 2020 Massachusetts ballot,  dubbed “Right to Repair,” would make it easier for independent auto mechanics to access the wireless data systems that are increasingly common in modern cars. If the ballot question passes, automakers would be required to create a platform for accessing telematics information. Car owners would then be able share their repair-relevant telematics data with independent repair facilities via a smartphone app.

Before deciding how to vote on Question 1, Massachusetts residents should consider the following issues:

  • While some telematics data is quite sensitive, like your GPS history, this right-to-repair initiative focuses on data that is “related to the diagnosis, repair or maintenance of the vehicle.”
  • So long as GPS and other privacy-related information is excluded — as it seems to be — concerns about data misuse are greatly diminished. Some risks remain, however, including potential exploitation of the system for remotely updating your car
  • Ensuring that independent repair shops have broad access to repair-relevant data can promote competition. However, Question 1 is not likely to produce large, near-term benefits for mechanics, as telematics systems are relatively new and don’t yet contain large amounts of repair-relevant data.
  • The deadlines in this ballot initiative are extremely tight, requiring automakers to design and implement a system for sharing telematics data beginning with model year 2022. More time may be required to meet usability and security needs.
  • There are many unanswered questions around this ballot initiative, including: How will the cellphone app operate? And what protections are needed to safeguard data collected by independent shops and automakers?
  • If the ballot question passes, the Massachusetts legislature could smooth implementation by settling open questions and establishing an oversight body to track progress.