Statement: National regulators tell car makers to ignore Mass. car data rules

Media Contacts

On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), sent a letter informing attorneys for 22 automakers the agency believes that federal law preempts Massachusetts car data regulations and, therefore, vehicle manufacturers do not need to comply with the state law. Massachusetts’ law, passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2020, mandates that automakers provide access to vehicle maintenance and repair data transmitted over the internet (often called “telematic data”). Independent mechanics argue that access to this data is important for them to have a level playing field for their repair businesses. PIRG endorsed the issue when it was on the ballot in Massachusetts. 

In response, Nathan Proctor, senior director of U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair Campaign, made the following statement: 

“Consumers are tired of having the things we’ve paid for tethered to distant manufacturers who can tell us what we can and can’t do with our stuff. The data generated by my car should belong to me. 

“If it is impossible to provide secure access to me, the car owner, to the data transmitted by my car, then the car is insecure and the automaker needs to fix that. If access to the data puts my life at risk, regulators should never have permitted these systems to be on the road in the first place. It is absurd to concede to the manufacturers’ self-serving argument that monopoly access is secure, but any other sharing of data is dangerous. Security experts have told us time and time again that there is no security through obscurity. The people of Massachusetts and our state government understand that and I had hoped federal regulators would, too. 

“The Department of Transportation had years to clarify its position on the car data rules in Massachusetts. While DOT seemed concerned about these regulations, it made no clear claim about preemption. Now, after the law is taking effect, it’s stepping in. It’s incredibly frustrating.”