Facts and Possibilities With the “Right-to-Repair” Measure

As my friends discuss some up and coming opportunities in the technology space, something came up this afternoon about a new law that’s been approved by 75% of voters in Massachusetts, called “right-to-repair”. I’ve done some reading and got some interesting thoughts for the near future.

Vamshi Vangapally
The Startup
Published in
4 min readNov 7, 2020


Do we know all about our car/bike/truck?

We all own automobiles, but we aren’t sure if we own the data generated by it. You have the vehicle, but if you take that to a local mechanic and if they can’t read the health of that vehicle — they cannot help you troubleshoot it or fix if something’s wrong.

This can be done by storing data in the obscure proprietary format, limiting the ability to read the data, not following a global open protocol to read it, etc., This is unfair as it sounds, which could only benefit the companies and forbid the owners from getting it checked/repaired wherever they want.

What does right-to-repair enable?

This is a measure that amends and broadens a law that gives consumers the right to repair the vehicles they own.

The measure will require automakers that sell vehicles with telematics systems to equip them with a standardized open data platform beginning with the model year 2022.

This standardized open data platform has to give vehicle owners and independent repair facilities direct access and the ability to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application. (source).

What data does my car has got?

A simple thing to start could be your engine light. Everybody says that if you see it up — there’s something wrong. Unless you have a way to read what’s happening under the hood, you cannot fix it.

If the car manufacturer doesn’t allow you to read this data, your local mechanic can’t fix it. So, you have to get it fixed by the manufacturer, who could be charging much higher given various price dynamics.

To enable this, all the mechanical details in any vehicle can be read using a common standardized port called OBD port — OBD stands for On-board Diagnostics. There are laws passed in the past to make this standardized and enable people to know the diagnostics data of their vehicles.

Sophistication in cars & data transmission

Car as know is changing every moment. Cars today are closer to computers, sophisticated systems that can detect what’s inside and around. They have got a ton of sensors to detect everything around them.

Every monitoring and sensing device will emit data, as the sensing can happen only when a signal of data is being transmitted to its brain-like processor. While this gets processed, it also gets stored somewhere for analyzing later to either enhance the driving experience or to learn from the driving patterns to become more cognitive.

Sophisticated cars and self-driving enabled cars like Tesla collect data as they drive around, from the cameras and other sensors, and the Autopilot computers can use that data to learn by example.

This data gets transmitted wirelessly to the cloud and the owner can’t decode it or read this data for any of his advantages. As the sophistication increases, the touchpoints where the proprietory plugs can be added also increases, which restricts a lot of vehicle diagnostic firms and mechanics from understanding or analyzing it.

Possibilities by enabling this data to be read

My thoughts around the opportunities and possibilities that open up with these data-sharing laws are endless. For example, if we can analyze this telemetry data, which is wirelessly transmitted to let the owners know more about the health of their car, it would be damn good stuff. It’s like wearing a Fitbit or Apple watch for your body. You get to know what’s happening underneath, you’ll get warnings if something’s not right apart from standard diagnostics provided by the manufacturer.

To do this, one must understand more about cars, how this additional data can be inferred, and should be able to provide some useful insights and metrics from that.

Take away from this article

From all this, we see that data emitted by every sensor on an automobile is valuable. Democratizing the access to it would be awesome (though there are some concerns about manipulating it and safety concerns as every good step has).

For app developers and innovators out there, if you can derive 4 important metrics that matter, you can make a Fitbit for cars that are ‘car agnostic’ — without having to worry about the manufacturer compatibility.

Follow me if you would like to hear about more such analysis and discussions from our brainstorming sessions. Also, tweeting at idohodl.