Scientia potentia est - "Knowledge is Power". As we continue to transition into the information revolution, I expect we'll see quite a number of "factions" spring up as we hammer out the details of our new economy. The current row between the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition (MRRC) and the automobile manufacturers will only be amplified as the Maker Subculture continues to be empowered by the availability of inexpensive prototyping tools and 3D printers.
In the past you needed your own foundry and factory to make machine parts -- but as subtractive CNC machines and additive manufacturing tools become available to independent mechanics and garage hobbyists, the fight will increasingly be over plans and designs. We are still working through this problem in the software community ever since software developers no longer needed mainframes to create, correct, and extend code.
I wonder how long before we get our first Open Source automobile?...
@Williamweaver: Great point about the 3D printers and additive manufacturing machines advancing independents (not to mention, hobbyists) ability to crank out their own parts, Still, they need the 3D CAD models to do so and I don't have a problem with requiring them to purchase them for a fee. I don't know the details around the business models of car dealerships, but my guess is there are hefty fees related to gaining access to that critical IP.
As for an open source vehicle, there's all the stuff being done at Local Motors, which touches on the open source and crowdsouring paradigm.
Finally, given that so much of car repair is now all about diagnostics and reprogramming and fixes to embedded software, there is a case to be made that your average car mechanic and repair shop doesn't have the skills/training/equipment to service cars the way they used to.
This is another example of something that should be solved by market forces, not by legislation.
I believe that a business has the right to do as they see fit with what they believe is intellectual property. Dealers are part of an automotive brand, and if the manufacturer gives them more information to build (or destroy) the value of their brand, more power to them.
If one car company puts out better repair information, and it drives sales up as a result, they will all do it. It should be market driven, not legislated.
When someone pushes for legislation to force someone to release information, particularly information that is potentially intellectual property, their motives are probably questionable, in my opinion.
As far as I'm concerned, the "Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition" should probably be called "Massachusetts right to steal intellectual property coalition".
Just one more piece of legislative crap for businesses to deal with.
ttemple - I'm with you. The less legislative "crap" the better. If there is a silver lining to this initiative, I'm all for market forces also being used to determine effective legislation. The MRRC is a state-wide effort that has created legislation at the state level. If it turns out to be fantastically destructive legislation, other states will not do likewise and Massachusetts would eventually repeal it. If it is win-win and car sales and repairs in the state increase, other states will rush to adopt and refine the idea.
My problem is with regulation at the Federal level that has not yet been tested by the states. There are no market forces when there is no choice...
Market forces say people in New York City should have access to more taxi cabs. But they don't because the taxi companies have a monopoly created by pressure on legislators to limit taxi medallions. So, market forces don't always make consumers winners.
The same thing happens in many markets. Few people will buy a car or truck based on whether or not they can repair it themselves. But those who want to do their own repairs should have the opportunity. I never advocated giving consumers access to source code or design information, but if they want to work on a vehicle they should have access to the tools and information the dealers have.
Your recent comment in this blog is very well put! I also believe that not everyone should repair their own equipment, but those of us who DO have significant electro-mechanical ability should NOT be barred from doing so after the sale. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't think that the core of this new MA. law is to make the firmware of the engine control computer available as a download to JOHN Q. PUBLIC, as some have suggested, I see no harm in the "manufacturing for repair" concept.
Modern-day manufacturing has become so automated that I believe it is one of the reasons why we no longer are inclined to repair an item. For example, I recently had a CANON EOS 50D camera body fail. The unit wasn't that old, but the CANON warranty had expired. I took it to an independent photography sales/service outlet with whom I've done business for many years. The proprietor told me that he would have to send it to CANON for repair, as he was not able to diagnose and/or replace the main circuit "board". Evidently, CANON uses computers to repair their camera models. This fellow has been servicing cameras of several makes for several decades, but even he isn't technically able to repair the latest models. I found that explanation VERY DISHEARTENING!
Actually, this has been adjudicated before. IBM tried to keep third party parts and service companies from working with their mainframes. They lost, and the company was under a consent decree for many years. GE had a similar situation with products like aircraft engines.
As for some of the points made in the article, I do have to take exception with some. The Chilton manuals were ok, but they were not as good as the factory ones, and not as accurate. It usually was not a big deal.
As for the third party parts, some of them were ok, but many were not. In the past I did all my own work (to the point of rebuilding engines, transmission and differentials, for example). The cars were small sports cars and sometimes factory parts were hard to find. Many times I had to use an off brand part and then had to replace it not far down the line.
The other day my wife and I repaired her minivan. The automatic door locks in the sliding doors had stopped working. We bought the parts from the dealer. Real MOPAR. She decided we could do it based on videos she saw on youtube. We did the passenger door first, although the video was for the driver's side. The video, made by an individual, stated that the other door was similar. I was NOT! Fortunalely I had a lot of experience with cars and she is a Professional Mechanical Engineer. Of course, she didn't know what a torx screw was, but I had lots of torx screwdrivers and bits. We got it done, and now we need to work on the electric window on the passenger side. The car is ten years old, by the way.
What I wish I had was the official shop manual. I had that for all my old sprots cars and motorcycles, and it helped a lot.
ttemple; Are you also a fan of monopolies ? When 'too big to fail' was an issue, were you cheering for the banking industry to become more concentrated, and less regulated, because the resulting 'shake-out' would be so much fun ? Remember 'Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely' ? But, there is a slippery slope between necessary and onerous regulations. I don't know enough details about this legislation and what it is supposed to protect or prevent to say which catagory it falls into.
I don't get the analogy. My points are about intellectual property, and whether a business should be forced to divulge what it considers to be trade secrets. It has nothing to do with monopolies, or the size of a company.
If you invented something clever, and made your living from producing and selling it, do you feel like the government should have the power to force you to sell the plans to build it?
I for one don't believe that the government should have that power.
ttemple; I don't recall the legislation requiring divulging intellectual property - instead it was about making available diagnostic and repair tools.
Perhaps you have never had a bad experience with automotive repair ? I had a car problem that a repair shop diagnosed as the ignition control computer. Since it was a dealership item, the car had to go to a dealership. The dealership replaced the Hall Effect Sensor, and said the car was fixed. When I went to pick up the car, it wouldn't start. So, on a rainy Friday at 4 pm, I had to get to another dealership and back with a computer, before closing time. The dealership had taken the job without having the part in stock, and with no intention of getting one. And other customers had had similar repair problems.
So this is about the size of a company, the possible monopolization of a market - automotive repair.
I would categorize "diagnostic and repair tools" that are proprietary to some specific manufacturer as "intellectual property".
I don't see how a particular automobile manufacturer could "monopolize" car repair. Just buy a different brand if it bothers you that some things are confined to the dealer for brand x. If and when this issue affects the sales of brand x, they will change their ways. It doesn't take government action to "fix" this. There are more than enough car manufacturers to prevent a monopoly on car repairs.
We'll just have to agree to disagree, but it is a very slippery slope you go down when you give the government the power to decide that a business must share information (and equipment, and repair tools, etc.) that it reserves for it's own authorized dealers. I'm pretty sure if you were your intellectual property being fleeced, you would feel differently about it.
(For cases like GE with jet engines, where national defense is at stake, and the government is the main customer, I have a little more flexibility.)
ttemple; We do agree that this is not a cut and dried issue. When there are few suppliers, like car manufacturers, collusion is a possibility, and then there is no real alternative. The issue is not 'giving away' the diagnostic and repair tools, but requiring them to be sold at a fair price - part of a 'free market' ?
You think national defence merits flexibility on the protection of intellectual property. When a manufacturer ceases to supply parts and service for a product, should they be required to release the proprietary information to (alternate suppliers) competitors ?
Do you disagree with prescription drug patent protection expiring and generic manufacture being allowed ? If a company knows up front how many years they will be allowed tp profit exclusively from an invention, is that a fair trade-off for government enforced patent protection ?
I think that there are enough car manufacturers to preclude monopolistic problems. I see the automotive industry as a very competitive business.
Obviously, the manufacurers are trying to protect the repair revenue stream for their dealers, whom rely heavily on that revenue stream to stay alive. I don't think there is really that much money in new car sales for the dealers. (however I have never been in that business, so I am possibly completely misguided.)
When a manufacturer ceases to supply parts, arrangements should be made to somehow transfer the intellectual property to other interested parties. This routinely happens when companies go out of business. There is usually residual value to the intellectual property, and it gets sold. The machine tool industry is a great example. People bought the intellectual property of companies like Sundstrand, Gray, etc., for the express purpose of the ongoing support revenue stream. What they got for their purchase price was drawers full of old prints, from which they could manufacture spare parts.
The prescription drug industry plays by the patent laws. They know what the rules are, and they have to live with them. This however does not mean that the drug companies give away the manufacturing processes for making the drugs when the patents run out. The formulation may be patented, and as such, "public", but how to synthesize the drug has to be figured out by those who wish to "copy" it. If the government forced the drug companies to divulge all trade secrets, I would have a big problem with it. (Spare me painting some scenario where one company owns a drug that is going to save the world and won't share it with other companies so that enough can be produced , etc. etc.)
By the way, the government doesn't enforce patents. The government allows you to attempt to enforce patents that it grants you. It is all on your nickel, not theirs.
Do you think that Microsoft should be required to give you the source code for Windows so you can "repair" it yourself? Where do you draw the line?
nobody is asking for the actual source code of the ecm. nobody is asking how the pistons are made, how they get their cylinder wall coating to stick to the engine block, how they make a complex suspension link in one piece without welding. people are asking (insisting) for the ability, for a price, to read the fault codes the computer is spitting out, the steps a customer must take to get the cv joint out of the transmission, how to replace a faulty gas tank fill sensor. nothing truly Intellectual Property, if that's what the manufacturers are claiming, and not just you, then theyre hiding behind the term. and chiltons manuals are kinda poo IIRC. ex. "step 1-remove engine." i was all about the bentley manuals.
This doesn't take legislation to fix. The consumer has all the power here. If enough people go to a dealer and complain, then go buy their car from a manufacturer that is more "cooperative", the company will change its policy. No new laws required.
Consumer pressure would fix this issue much faster than legislation.
Here's teh problem, You buy a car because it was supposed to be a good value and then your local dealer decides to cut costs by hring a number of poorly trained shop workers. (I have had to deal with them...) but he still charges you the $90.00 . hour shop rate. You have to return your vehicle numerous times and the dealer is happy because he is getting his money but you aren't getting much value for your investment...
While it may be easy to say "Buy a different car" that is not always an option. If you can't get the car fixed that youhaven't paid for, you are supposed to go deeper in debt to buy another car? If you can do that you must be rather rich...
Kind of like the advice that folks are given when the job prospects dry up, "Just move ..." and what exactly do I do with my house that I have here which won't sell because there are no jobs?
Competition does wonders for the quality of service. If there is competition the dealer that has a poor customer service program will have some motivation to improve, and the customer has some recourse other than to jsut stuff it.
It is also interesting to note the cost of repairs of a vehicle after 5 years. Some manufacturers change accesories every year. Others have used the same parts for decades. Guess which one costs more to maintain. it comes down to differences like $100 for an altenator from comapny A and $700 from company B. But the adds don't tell you that.
You are correct, marketplaces are slow to correct problems, but they will. The alternate legislative quick fix brings additional long term costs that are more destructive to the consumer and marketplace over the long run. We need to have the personal discipline to understand and accept the consequences of our actions. We should not burden our entire society by seeking legislative redress to fix our personal errors in judgement.
Ultimately, a car manufacturer that caters to shade tree mechanics will come to the market. Realize that you are paying less up front for some vehicles because the manufacturer is making higher profits on these repairs. Consequently expect to initially pay more up front for a shade tree mechanic friendly vehicle, at least until the next guy figures out how to do it cheaper and starts a competing enterprise.
Oh wait, this has already happend! We have plenty of kit car options available. Now if someone can find me a kit-truck manufacturer I have my next vehicle.
We have nothing to legislate. The market has already responded, we just need to stop making silly decisions by buying the mainstream vehicles that are difficult to maintain.
Unfortunately, history is showing that market forces CAN'T solve the problem.
I work for a very large hospital system. We run into the same problem obtaining service documentation. It's gotten MUCH worse in the last 15 years, and there's no indication that it'll get any better.
It's particularly ironic, because in-house service is as compentent, faster and much cheaper than OEM service. This allows the equipment to be much more available for patient care. What the medical equipment companies realized is that they can make more money by forcing hospitals to buy service contracts from them. Since the manufacturers can't compete on ability or value, they withhold the service documents and try to force the hospitals to buy service. Apparently, they've decided that patient care is less important than their profit margin.
One wonders what changed in the last 15 years... The technology advance, sure. More importantly, big companies bought smaller ones. The number of vendors has decreased immensely - while not quite monopolies, it VERY close.
Funny that auto manufacturers see it this way, when aircraft manufacturers, who have a LOT more to lose in a failure, fully support non-OEM service.
Makes you wonder what the auto manufacturers REALLY fear. Maybe being shown that their extortionate service costs are artificially inflated. And most likely, honest competition.
This could have come straight out of "Atlas Shrugged". The doublespeak is simultaneously entertaining and insulting. "Right to Repair" in this case actually smells like "Right to Destroy a proprietary competitive edge"
Compulsory and coerced market behavior is by definition NOT free market. This proposed "right to buy other's property with or without their consent" resembles the behavior of thugs who take what they want from others by force.
Does an individual have a right to force their neighbor to share their rightful property? Or force them to sell it to you? What if they offered it only at a ridiculously high price, do you then feel justified to upgrade your 'right' to have it for free? Where does the compulsion end?
If you want a car that can be serviced by independent mechanics, then make sure that's the case before you buy it! And, don't buy a car from a company that only offers certain equipment to authorized dealers if it's that important to you. Secure your values before you consent to the deal! The free market mechanism may be too slow and inefficient for some in the short term, but it is the most MORAL system in the history of man and has enabled unprecedented high standards of living all around the world...so let's stick up for it!
By the way, the Governor of MA signed this erosion of private property rights into state law yesterday...but the voters get the final decision on the fall ballot.
Does anyone else see this as a backdoor poke into Toyota's black box?
GlennA; I didn't purposely throw out a lure, but here goes... :)
I meant "Moral" in a Randian sense. All other economic systems rely on some form of coercion to dictate economic output, allocation and reward. Free-market capitalism relies on natural economic incentives to promote consensual market activity between free individuals. Key word: consensual
The "Right to Repair" legislation, on the surface, appears to be well-intentioned and innocent, but it IS a minor erosion of economic liberty and an incremental step further down the slippery slope of centrally planned economies. Automakers are coerced/bullied into providing goods/services that they otherwise did not plan to provide in the pursuit of their own economic self-interest.
In my view, the best case outcome here is for automakers to comply to the new legislation by NOT offering new vehicles in the Massachusetts market. I say this because I believe that this is indeed a model for a future national policy. I would rather that automakers be free to innovate, unencumbered by rules made by men and women who don't know how to produce anything besides rhetoric and rules.
LED MAC; So, 'the proper MORAL purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness' ?
I remember hearing the story of Union workers picketing a manufacturing plant, and the Owner calling the Governor to send in the National Guard, who proceeded to BAYONET the picketers. That may have made the Owner happy. Those at the pointy ends of the bayonets were probably less happy.
I also remember a story comparing laws to trees, and cutting down the 'trees' that the devil was hiding behind. The punch line was 'when all of the 'trees' are cut down and the devil turns on me, where is there for me to hide ?'
There is also a saying that ' your rights end at the tip of your nose'. I think I might like to have a few laws to protect me from your pursuit of your happiness. Your Utopia sounds more like Anarchy and Lawlessness to me. Please don't include me in your Utopia.
I would imagine that the hang-up here is the software. Automakers are paranoid about giving too much access to their software, especially when it comes to engine and powertrain control modules. As we've discussed many times on this site, the cost of writing software is tremendous. The Ganssle Group estimates that software development costs about $20 to $40 per line of code (which means that an ECM with 500,000 lines of code might cost $10 million to $20 million to develop), so it's hard to blame the automakers for being reticent about this. I, too, used to do my own simple engine repairs and I wish I could still do them, but I can't afford the software-based diagnostic equipment and I can't really blame the auto companies for not wanting to sell it to me. The bottom line is that I understand why people want to do their own repairs, but I also understand why automakers are so protective of their software.
Ah, Chilton (said in a tone echoing Homer's "Ah, beer."). I have fond memories of guy friends, my husband and me all studying the different system diagrams and instructions for several cars, trying to troubleshoot a problem, and usually successfully making (mostly minor) car repairs to avoid a mechanic's fee. Although I usually avoided electrical repairs, all the other ones were made crystal-clear. Like Jon, I don't remember any problem with "substandard parts". Sounds like hogwash. I keep my cars for about 10 years and still haven't had parts replacement problems: usually it's matched by an equivalent with a different number that works just as well. The people at O'Reillys, Kragen and other auto parts houses find them right away in those giant databases in the sky.
If it is equipment that you own, it should definitely be in your right to repair it. On the other side though, if you repair your own equipment you really transfer the reliability of the vehicle or equipment to you letting the manufacturer off the hook for any future failures.
Exactly. I work in an industry where self repair of the products has gotten members of the public injured and killed. Lawyers still go after the original manufacturer when owners have jumped out safety interlocks.
I'm FOR self repair of most items, but when it can cause injury or death to third parties, we need to examine how far we go to encourage it.
Second, will the law only cover "businesses" or everybody? I don't like laws that create new rights for certain classes of people. The reporter shield law is a perfect example. It extends "rights" to a certain group to do (or not do) things that would land non-members (say, bloggers for example) in court.
Texas TJ--I'm with you on this one. I retired in 2005 from the appliance industry. This is one industry in which some homeowners (maybe most) feel they can repair their own range, refrigerator, trash masher, wine cooler, etc. They would never consider trying to repair an MRI, aircraft engine, robotic system, incubator etc but a range, probably. When lawsuits arose due to consumer injury while trying to repair equipment--we always settled out of court. We knew we would lose the battle even if we provided proper instruction on the simplest repair. I do feel there needs to be cooperation from manufacturers allowing information relative to repair and availability of necessary tools to bring about that repair. How the manufacturers protect themselves from unwarranted lawsuits is another problem and a real issue.
Sorry but there is a BIG difference between an MRI and a dishwasher.
The dishwasher guys are only trying to make you buy their $400 circuit board because there is no way to determine that a 5 cent diode is shorted.
"Average" people don't try to repair their own appliances but people like the readers of this publication are generally more qualified than the "technician" that the dealer sends out to replace the expensive board.
TexasTJ: A great example of what you're talking about is the Toyota floor mat situation. It's not even a repair. But if the owner uses an "uncompliant" floor mat, or stacks eight floormats around the accelerator pedal (as one owner did), it's Toyota's fault for not taking that into account during the design stage.
There is no easy answer to the issue of accurate repair information. The company mentnioned, Mercedes has a tremendous stake in brand recognition and reliability. They have decided that some categories of repair can potentially damage the companies reputation if incorrectly done. All auto manufacturers have invested heavily in documenting and training on maintenance and repair and they feel they deserve a return on this investment. Conversely, an auto repair technician has invested tens of thousands of dollars in tools and years in training to become proficient in their trade.They work for years to build and keep a customer base and are depended upon to do the job right the first time. After 50 years as a professional repair technician on many mechanical and electronic platforms I am confident that if the legislature gets involved in this issue, they will apply a simplistic solution to a complex problem and make things a whole lot worse.
I don't have a problem with specialty tools when I'm allowed to buy them. But when I can't buy them I'm unhapply and will just have to make it. And remember to buy a different brand. I've purchased speciality tools for my '84 Toy 4X4 Pickup. I've also been denided being able to buy. I don't like it. Now about the cost. If it is too much I'll just buy close and modify it. Why make something that uses non standard tools? It is like not being to be able to get a repair manual. The dealer and manufacture got enought of my money at sale time. It is like Mil-Std. But then I would go for a standardized car. I think that is why the VW bug was such a big hit. Easy to fix with lots of spart parts. I think price, mileage, maintenance, repair. Not blue-tool compatable. I am envious of the large screen maps however. Over folded. However the emap is not going to be working where I go.
WOW! This subject SURE has created quite a furor! There seems to be one more addition to the old familiar phrase, "never discuss religion or politics in a social group." Looks like we need to append that to ".... AND repair manual availability!"
After read the first 20 odd blogs, I have come to the conclusion that this very polarizing issue has spawned several tangential debates, NOT necessarily germaine to the original question posed. For one thing, I agree with one (or more) of the bloggers that I don't believe the Massachusetts statute is designed to force the vehicle manufacturers to provide source code for the engine control processor, OR any other vehicle control processor subsystem. What I believe the focus of the proposed legislation is aimed at doing is to make generally available tools and/or instruction aids to repair / replace defective mechanical components, such as sensors, etc. Two examples given above suggest this very clearly; replacing a fuel tank sensor, replacing an automatic transmission component, etc
Let's face it. There are also some very specific reasons WHY modern vehicles have become so complex. Anyone wanna guess WHY? How about because starting around 1963 we legislated smog laws, for a start!!! The first result was a PCV valve from the valve covers to the intake manifold. Then came EGR controls. Then came the first Oil embargo, and the need to expect much better mileage specifications (CAFE, comes to minnd!) EVERY one of these "improvements" is the direct result of federal and/or state legislation. Then, we have all the "safety" equipment in modern vehicles ....... seat/shoulder restraints, airbags, crumple zones, etc. And, more modern touches have added even more engine controls, etc. No wonder that modern-day vehicles almost rival some of NASA's equipment.
This is why you have the impending Massachusetts law. Think about it!
I've repaired my own vehicles for more decades than I'd like to admit to. In the 1950s through the 1980s, I bought service manuals directly from the manufacturer. There was a time when one could page to the end of the in-car vehicle manual and find an "order form" to send to the manufacturere with a check, and about a month or so later, you'd get a tome in the mail with the exact procedure to replace every from a window gasket to the engine. BUT, in those days, a vehicle was 99% mechanical & 1% electrical. The ONLY "electronics" was the radio!!!!!
Auto manufacturers already make tools and repair information available. Does this mean that you can go to your local dealer and insist that they provide you with any information you request, and they will instantly comply? Of course not. Buy a factory service manual. It might cost hundreds of dollars, but they are available. Do an online search for information. Yes, the information is readily available for any mass-produced car.
Are tools also available? Yes, they sure are. Does this mean that you can go to your local dealer and insist that they sell you whatever tool you need? Yes, you can inisist, but they are not likely to have much of an inventory of tools on hand. You might have to search elsewhere for the tool you need.
What about parts? Should every dealer stock every part for every car? Not very practical! Does a dealer have a right to refuse to do business with you? Sure they do!
Face it, cars are getting more complicated. You might have to put a little effort into repairing your own car.
I can tell you from my own personal experience that not all tools are made available to the shade tree mechanics like myself. More common tools are usually available from the after-market auto parts retailers. But the very specialized tools are not readily available. I had parts departments in three seperate dealerships refuse to sell me a specialized tool for my Ford truck. They all pointed out that they sold the tool to their own mechanics, but would not sell to me because I was not a factory authorized repair facility. I eventually had to fabricate the tool myself.
In this case, as Ford has a monopoly on the tool, I do not believe they have the right to refuse my request to purchase it. If the tool is considered proprietary, they can patent or copyright it as appropriate and maintain their ownership of the design.
So I hope the bill passes. It will be better for all of us.
By the way I maintain my four cars myself. A mix of Ford and GM vehicles. Do everything up to major engine overhaul.
Special tools for Fords are generally sold under the Rotunda name. If you look at your Ford Workshop Manual (which you should have- I can tell you where to buy one if you need it- you won't like the price), you will see lots of references to Rotunda part numbers for special tools. Required tools are typically listed at the beginning of each procedure in manuals for late-model vehicles.
Rotunda tools are available online at rotunda.spx.com. They will sell you any tool they offer, which should cover most of your Ford specialty tool needs. The Rotunda site has a nice feature (if you want a long list): it can give you a listing of all available tools for your vehicle (search by year, make, and model).
While your local Ford dealers may not be very helpful (mine aren't either) (passing the law won't force them to sell you anything), I am, so if you need a particular tool, post the information and I will look it up for you.
Keep in mind that special tools are NOT CHEAP! In some cases, the tool would cost more than having the work done by a dealer.
Wow! a much longer list of thoughtful responses than usual!
The legal system (society) is VERY different today than of 10,20,30 years ago. So, the liability issues of quality / control of repair vs public safety is far more complex. You think Ford or Chevy would have been held to the same standards in 1965 as Toyota is being held to today for stuck accelerators due to people putting in their own floor carpets? The manufacturers can't ignore this legal reality.
I do have experience in working with ECUs and their code on autos. Sometimes, the simple act of selling a diagnostic hardware or software WILL give access to proprietary information. In turn, this will open up additional liability issues for the manufacturer. Information, I would love to get my hands on. It would make reverse engineering required to do alternative fuel conversions, much easier.
It was necessary for the government to get involved to standardize simple OBD codes and physical connector. Apparently society demands a certain level of access to the "inner workings" of their cars.
I certainly don't want government involvement beyond what is necessary (IN ANYTHING). But that is the "rub".. defining "what is necessary".
Rephrased... what society ( a constantly changing item) demands under "freedom" vs protection from themselves (or, in this case, those tinkering with the cars they share the road with).
Full Disclosure: I am a retired development engineer from a major tier 1 supplier of automotive electronic systems.
There are three levels of access to "diagnostic" information on recent automotive electronic control modules in the US. The first, also known as "OBD II" (On Board Diagnostics, version 2) refers to the EPA-mandated emission control system trouble codes that are common to all manufacturers. These tools can read emission system fault codes and related data. They also erase the fault code and corresponding data on command. The vehicle OEM is required to provide access information to aftermarket tool makers so third party diagnostic tools (and related software) will be available within several months of the vehicle introduction.
Level two consists of "OEM Proprietary" diagnostic information. This includes additional diagnostic and operating information on the emission control system, and on other electronic modules in the vehicle. For example, speed information from each wheel used in by the Antilock Brake or Traction Control system may be streamed on the vehicle data bus, and read using these proprietary tools. This information can be provided to select third party tool manufacturers, but the contract with the toolmaker may restrict sales to OEM "approved" buyers.
Level three allows the tool to change the application software, patch the operating system, and change the calibration data that "tunes" the controller to a specific application. It may also modify other internal data, including information used for warrenty verification. Consequently access to this level of tool is very tightly controlled.
What I find most interesting is that this discussion seems to be limited to automobiles. Clearly, repair parts should be available for purchase to all, but only after the warranty on having them replaced for free has expired. That would protect the competitive edge, and possibly improve the warranties a bit.
How about service information on other items that we buy, like TV sets and other electronics. Service parts are simply not available to any except "authorized service" organizations, and those folks are so proud of their talent that few can afford it. I can't get any service information about internal adjustments on my 2 year old TV, and I am certainly not going to just discard it, since it was not a cheap one. Nor are any service parts available, not even knobs and cabinet parts.
So you may read all about this brand and model in the "monkey" section in a few weeks.
Really, no service information or even source for parts is available for th vast majority of products that we purchase these days. The problem is not jus with cars.
William K, right you are. I had the same problem with a TV. Although the front-panel light flashed some sort of error code, I never could find any info about what it signified or how to get it serviced. Of course we don't know this when we make a purchase. On the other hand, when I buy a Sears Kenmore appliance I know I can get service information and spare parts. We live in an imperfect world.
One more concern is that one community near where I live has decided that residents are not allowed to replace their failed water heaters themselves. The demand is that the work must be done by a licensed plumber. The law was passed without consulting the residents, so it certainly looks like a cozy deal with the local plumbers. Replacing a water heater is a quite simple task, the only real challenge is removing the failed unit.
Of course, it is true that there are some folks who should not try to replace the water heater, but most of those people should not handle any tool sharper than a soup spoon.
Many years ago my son purchased a rather "high end" camera used. It quit working after a few weeks and he took it to a camera shop to see if he could get it repaired. They informed him that it was an internal computer problem and that he would need to pay quite a bit, in advance, for them to even evaluate the camera. A very unhappy son brought the camera to me to see if there was any hope of my fixing it. The first area that I opened exposed a wire that had become unsoldered from the stainless steel surface that it had been attached to. I resoldered the wire using an aesy trick that I had learned about soldering to stailess steel, put it back together, and returned it to him to see if that had fixed it. The camera worked perfectly from then until it was replaced by a digital camera ten years later.
From this we learn that many folks claiming to be able to diagnose problems not only lack the skill to correctly interpret the symptoms, but, far worse, they lack the integrity to admit that they don't have a clue about it.
As for automotive software or firmware, most of what we would repair does not need any information about the internal code or algorithms, since it is usually a hardware problem. Except for microsoft brand produts, software seldom breaks. All that I usually require is a circuit diagram and possibly the "truth table" for any complex switches, and what voltages should be in any external analog connections.
@WilliamK: The scenario you describe happens far too often and as a result, people often simply discard and replace rather than repair. I recently knocked a shelf off the wall which caused two CD changers to crash to the floor. As a result neither function. After more than a couple dozen phone calls I finally found someone who said "He worked on CD players". There would be a $50 charge to look at each item to diagnose and that would come off the repair bill if they were fixable.
"What if you cannot repair them?" In that case I lose the $50. I have no problem with upfront money to diagnose and then repair, but if the tech cannot fix the item, what guarantee do I have that he/she will even look at them and not just pocket my money? How do I know the tech even has a working knowledge of the items? I do not have any ideas beyond opening the cases and looking for loose wires, which I did. So rather than risk the money I will probably buy a new unit, because I have been too often burned by repair shops that cannot repair. Most recently a VCR. (Yes I still use a VCR, listen to vinyl records and even own a black & white TV, although it never gets used.)
I am not sure any legislation would solve the problem
The comment about a repair tech's ability to fix CD players brings up an interesting experience of mine. I was given a CD recorder-player that had been declared 'non-repairable" because the laser had failed. It was an interesting challenge, because I had been thinking that it would be handy to have a recorder, so I opened the unit up and investigated it.
I wiped the laser with my finger and then tried to see if that made any difference, and the machine recognised the CD and started playing! So I cleaned the laser properly, with a Q-Tip and solvent, and the system still works well.
My feeling is that the original analysis was done without even opening the case. That would be OK for somebody not claiming to have any servicing skills, but for somebody who represents that they are competent, and charges for their services, it seems a bit unethical. But that is how that particular service organization works, it seems. So I would never recommend a place that sells new equipment as a place to get old equipment repaired. Of course, there may be exceptions, I know.
Don, the first step is to have the surface very clean, then I use a quite hot iron with standard (electronic grade) flux core solder, and possibly a little extra rosin flux. I melt a blob of solder on the surface and then scratch up the surface under the blob with a steel soldering tool. The trick is in removing the oxidized surface layer in an oxygen0-free environment, whicg is under the solder and flux. After a few seconds of scratching there is usually enough area tinned to make a connection. IT does take some practice and a bit of patience. The iron I have used most was a Radio Shack $5 unit, 25 or 35 watts, I think.
I don't know which alloy I have had the best luck with, since most things like that are not labeled as to alloy type, and I am not an SS expert.
Unfortunately this can't be used when soldering to battery cases because it delivers enough heat to damage the battery seals.
Use silver solder--solder with some silver in it. Get your surfaces clean, clean, clean and use a flux compatible with high heat amd silver solder. A small soldering iron won't work very well. I have used a MAAP-gas torch and know people who have used a Bernz-o-matic torch kit that includes oxygen and a flammable gas.
It certainly would work to use silver solder, but a torch fine enough for fixing that camera would have been quite expensive. Remember the "Water Welder" of a few years back, (1970's)? Perfect for that kind of work but an expenssive tool to buy.
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