West Virginia bill could ban OTA car updates to force dealer visits

As the auto industry begins to truly embrace 21st century technology, a bill in West Virginia could throw a speed bump in the way of progress. Specifically, the bill hopes to thwart an automaker’s ability to push certain over-the-air updates to vehicles, depending on how they’re being used.

The bill, which was originally reported by Clean Technica, would require all aftermarket software updates to be performed by a dealer rather than an OTA update. Fortunately, updates to the navigation or entertainment system are excluded, but that’s still not a win for consumers. It would force a customer to go to a dealership for a simple upgrade rather than the automaker just pushing them to the car.

In addition to restricting the type of OTA updates an automaker can send to consumer vehicles, the text also groups “aftermarket software” and “changes in vehicle function and features” under “the ‘operation and activities of a new car dealership‘. This means that a consumer looking to purchase a software upgrade would go to a dealership for service rather than having them remotely teleported to their vehicle. This could be akin to visiting a Tesla showroom to purchase its $2,000 acceleration boost feature, which currently comes as an in-car purchase.

Tesla, in particular, has recently come under fire from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for its use of OTA updates in place of traditional reminders. Last year, NHTSA asked Tesla to justify an extensive update to address a possible flaw related to its cars colliding with emergency vehicles while its Autopilot driver assistance system was active. . The investigation into this matter is still ongoing, but does NHTSA’s qualms with Tesla justify a greater burden on the consumer? Not according to automotive lobbying group Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

The alliance strongly criticized the text, noting that it would “unnecessarily harm consumers and potentially create safety risks” by forcing consumers to visit a dealer to perform a software update rather than a replacement. receive wirelessly via cellular or wifi connection.

“[C]Consumers should take the time to take their vehicle to a franchised dealership for each system update. In practice, this additional inconvenience would be unnecessary for consumers driving vehicles with outdated software that could impact certain aspects of vehicle operation, reads part of the letter. “It would also unnecessarily prevent manufacturers from easily supplying electronics. consumer recalls, which means many vehicles on West Virginia roads could have issues that can be easily fixed in the background via live patches.

Now, just because the AAI protects consumer rights here doesn’t necessarily mean it’s totally pro-consumer. In 2020, the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers — which has since merged with another group to form the AAI — ran ads suggesting women could be sexually assaulted if Massachusetts passed an amendment to its Right to Freedom Act. repair giving consumers and independent repair shops access to telematics data. When citizens voted to pass the amendment, the alliance sued the state attorney general, and that battle is still ongoing. Finally, its chairman of the board is also a senior Toyota executive, the same individual who allegedly advocated against the aggressive rollout of electric vehicles in closed meetings with congressional staffers.

In case you were wondering what prompted the potential change in legislation, let’s look at another lobby group. The West Virginia Automobile Dealers Association confirmed The reader over the phone he helped introduce the bill, which means the fate of how West Virginia consumers receive their in-car updates is being debated by two groups whose interests benefit dealers and builders cars, and not just one dedicated directly to consumers.

Neither the WVADA nor any of the politicians sponsoring the bill returned. The readerrequest for comments at the time of publication.

In addition to potentially changing how OTA updates are handled, the bill also introduces additional text that limits how cars can be sold to residents of West Virginia. The state already bans direct-to-consumer auto sales; Additionally, the proposed bill would prohibit manufacturers from offering vehicle reservations and subscription-like arrangements, as well as an automaker from offering test drives or feature demonstrations of new vehicles to consumers.

Consumers appear to be on the losing side of this legislation if it ever passes. For starters, drivers might be less likely to schedule an appointment at the dealership to perform an OTA-based recall compared to an update that is automatically applied. And there’s also the text that prevents automakers from offering reservations to consumers, which means the Ford Bronco you so desperately want might not be something you can actually reserve a spot for. line. Either way, being the victim of laws being dodged by corporate lobbyists isn’t exactly something many consumers want.

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