BOSTON — Ads for both sides of the Question 1 debate on car repair have flooded the airwaves.
Boston 25 News spoke to people on both sides of the issue, independent shop owners, and a technology expert to provide voters with some perspective before hitting the polls in November.
Medfield mechanic Ghazi Elias of Ghazi’s Auto Service has been in business for 20 years, but he tells Boston 25 that right now independent shops are drowning in fees to keep up with diagnostic technology in newer cars.
“It’s getting harder and harder… you have to have the right software,” Elias said.
According to Elias, that gives an advantage to dealerships.
He’s one of roughly 1600 Massachusetts shops supporting a “Yes” vote on Question 1.
WHAT THE QUESTION SAYS:
A “yes” vote on the Massachusetts ballot question, which you can read in its entirety here, would require that “motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities be provided with expanded access to mechanical data related to vehicle maintenance and repair.”
Tommy Hickey with the Right to Repair Coalition says even though voters approved a Right to Repair ballot initiative overwhelmingly 8 years ago, a loophole is making it hard for independent shops to access wireless information called “telematics."
“Without updated technology in a competitive market, independent repairers can’t do their job,” Hickey said.
If passed, the ballot would require manufacturers starting with 2022 model cars to provide access to telematics to car owners, likely through an app. Then owners could decide if they wanted to share that information with a repair shop themselves.
“Competition keeps prices down. And if one group has a monopoly on this information, prices are going to go up,” said former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, a paid spokesman for “Yes on One”. “This is a classic David and Goliath case."
“No on One” supporters say there are “Goliaths” on both sides. Dealerships on their side and national auto parts chains on the “Yes” side.
“It won’t do anything to improve the consumer experience, but it will add tremendous risk for everyone,” said Conor Yunits, spokesman for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, which opposes the initiative.
He says the question is not about repairs, but security.
“When you lower the bar to access these systems, wirelessly, you are opening a lock, an opening a door for hacking that cannot be shut again,” Yunits said. “The more people that have access to information, the more risk there is of doing harm,” he added.
“No” ads talk about concerns that data could fall into the wrong hands.
A TECHNOLOGY EXPERT’S TAKE:
Boston 25 asked ProtectNow Cyber Social Identity Protection Instructor Robert Siciliano to weigh in. Siciliano says he believes concerns over stalkers and other bad actors are overblown.
“There’s no question that there are vulnerabilities with hacking automobiles,” Siciliano said. “While there is a miniscule grain of truth to that, you are far more vulnerable on your computer and or your mobile phone. And your vehicle should be the least of your concerns, when it comes to your personal security, being vulnerable."
BIG MONEY AT STAKE
Campaign finance information released Monday, Oct. 5th compiling spending on both sides of the issue through the first of the month.
According to the report, the YES side spent $16.6 million so far.
The NO side was not far behind, spending $15.5 million with just over a month to go until the election.
In 2012, “Yes” on Right to Repair spent roughly $2.3 million, while opponents spent just $308,000.
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