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Right-to-Repair Law To Get DRM Out of Your Car

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the do-it-yourself dept.

Transportation 403

eldavojohn writes "Ralph Nader's back to hounding the automotive industry ... but it's not about safety this time, it's about the pesky DRM in your car. Most cars have a UART in them that allows you to read off diagnostic codes and information about what may be wrong with the vehicle so you can repair it. Late model cars have been getting increasingly complex and dependent on computers which has caused them, as with most things digital, to move towards a proprietary DRM for these tools, diagnostic codes and updated repair information. This has kept independent auto-shops out of the market for fixing your car and relegating you to depend on pricier dealers to get your automotive ailments cured. The bill still has a provision to protect trade secrets but is a step forward to open up the codes and tools necessary to keep your car running."

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403 comments

God damn those Corvairs (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033321)

They sucked. Unless it was a '66 Monza!

Re:God damn those Corvairs (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033993)

No, those pretty much sucked too.

Prediction (5, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033323)

Ralph Nader will find a way not only to fail at getting DRM out of cars, but it will somehow result in more DRM everywhere else. Florida will be involved in some way.

Yeah, I'm still somewhat bitter at Ralph Nader, why do you ask?

Re:Prediction (1, Offtopic)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033387)

Me too. The Corvair was a cool little car, especially if you dropped a 350 in it. Unsafe at any speed my ass.

Re:Prediction (5, Insightful)

_ivy_ivy_ (1081273) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033711)

Me too. The Corvair was a cool little car, especially if you dropped a 350 in it. Unsafe at any speed my ass.

If it is equally unsafe regardless of speed, it makes perfect sense to drive as fast as possible so you can get to your destination sooner.

Seems like you're using sound logic to me.

Re:Prediction (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033397)

Don't blame Nader, blame your lousy voting system that discourages a third party from forming. Your voting party system is only one party better than the Communism your country hates.

Captcha was: protest

Re:Prediction (0, Offtopic)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033547)

Don't blame Nader, blame your lousy voting system that discourages a third party from forming.

I do, but the guys who came up with that are all dead. Nader isn't. Yet.

Re:Prediction (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033949)

Don't blame Nader, blame your lousy voting system that discourages a third party from forming. Your voting party system is only one party better than the Communism your country hates.

Captcha was: protest

I think the ideal would be for candidates to run as individuals with no such thing as a political party. Then, y'know, people might actually have to think about what the individual candidate stands for (or claims to stand for anyway) rather than reducing voting to the 50/50 chance of "is he a member of my party?" Then the next step would be to get rid of the concept of politicians and return to the concept of the statesman.

If anyone is aware of any writings the Founding Fathers have left behind about political parties in general I'd appreciate any reference you can provide. Ok, mod me off-topic now if that makes you feel better.

Re:Prediction (5, Interesting)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034307)

Well, Washington thought we should only have one because having two would be divisive, though he didn't really specify which party ought to be the only one, John Adams thought it ought to be illegal [wikipedia.org] to belong to any party other than his, and most of the rest of them seem to have believed that the people shouldn't have had much choice in who was president in the first place.

That said, it's still Nader's fault, because despite the faults of the US voting system, Nader knew those faults, and knew exactly what he was doing. He thought that getting more funding for his party was worth 4 years of George Bush and as I recall he didn't even get enough votes to get the extra funding anyway so he shafted us, and everything he stood for for 8 years to prove a point.

Re:Prediction (4, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034337)

Washington was against political parties, and said so in his Farwell Address [yale.edu] :

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.

. . .

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

But not everyone agreed, even back then. Washington was the first and last President to not belong to a major political party (except, kinda, John Tyler, who was thrown out of the Whig party).

Re:Prediction (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033961)

Don't blame Nader, blame your lousy voting system that discourages a third party from forming. Your voting party system is only one party better than the Communism your country hates.

[snip irrelevant nonsense]

What more do you want? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Prediction (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033423)

And he'll be the center of everybody's attention, which is all he wants [sfgate.com] .

Re:Prediction (0, Offtopic)

secretplans (1489863) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033521)

Nadar is not responsible for the failures of the Democratic Party.

Neither are those of us who voted for honesty.

Nadar '12.

now that's just dumb (1, Offtopic)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033617)

You're going to blame the 500 people who voted independent, while ignoring the millions who voted republican? As if those 500 votes somehow counted more? Nope. You should look to the 120,000 democrats who voted for Bush in florida. Every Nader vote could have gone to Gore, but the Democrats who voted Republican still would have fucked up up. and you know why? Because they're paying to the 2-party "system". (Which doesn't actually exist, because THERE WERE MORE THAN 2 PARTIES ON THE BALLOT!)

Ironically, the mentality you are carrying today in 2009 is far more responsible for what happened in 2000, than those who have gotten past your mentality. YOUR mentality is what held us back in 2000.

Re:now that's just dumb (2, Insightful)

_ivy_ivy_ (1081273) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033777)

You should look to the 120,000 democrats who voted for Bush in florida.

Exactly. The result had more to do with the fact that Gore is as big an idiot as Bush, albeit one with less of a bend on world domination.

I can just picture him boring the Taliban out of Afganistan with a powerpoint presentation.

Re:now that's just dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28034189)

He's just as bent on world domination as Bush is... He's just as happy telling the entire world how they have to live their life. Don't forget to buy your indulgences from his company.

Much like Bush abandoned free market principles to save the free market, I could see Gore nuking the world to save the world from humanity.

Re:now that's just dumb (1)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034385)

I can just picture [Gore] boring the Taliban out of Afganistan with a powerpoint presentation.

Hey, if it works, great. On a similar note, my favorite President was Clinton, because he made me laugh, and he kept America out of trouble with his distractions.

Re:Prediction (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034025)

Yeah! Because what we need is less political options! Not more!

I don't even know why we have two!

Re:Prediction (1, Funny)

ragutis (934425) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034349)

I mentioned this post to my wife, suggesting that Ralph may be right on this one. Her response was, "like a broken clock."

Disclosure. We were owners of several Corvairs. Yeah, dating ourselves.

I believe in free market capitalism (0, Troll)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033329)

so there is no way I will support Ralph Nader on this. If the car companies want you to deal with certified technicians then so be it. Independent mechanics are usually a bunch of creepy fucks to begin with so FUCK them and FUCK ralph nader. There is no way Ronald Reagan would be on board with this nonsense.

Re:I believe in free market capitalism (5, Insightful)

geekboy642 (799087) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033453)

Way to miss the point, pornologist. In a free market, ANY mechanic would work on ANY car he/she felt like figuring out. We have a government-enforced monopoly on any car with a computer in it, thanks to the DMCA and similar laws. That's not freedom; that's not capitalism, that's corporatism.

Re:I believe in free market capitalism (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033541)

That's not freedom; that's not capitalism, that's corporatism.

Also known as "Trickle-Down Economics" aka "Trickle-Upon Economics" aka "Reagan Free Market Capitalism", as in big corporations a "free" to fuck you six ways till Sunday.

He made it perfectly clear what he was referring to. I don't know why you were confused!

Re:I believe in free market capitalism (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033683)

In a free market, ANY mechanic would work on ANY car he/she felt like figuring out.

You are not asking Gus to take a look at your Ford V-8.

I don't want the mechanic who thinks he can figure it out. I want the mechanic who knows what to do.

Re:I believe in free market capitalism (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033759)

And that's why you pay top dollar at the dealership, and when they screw you without lube you just shut up and take it.

Most of us are trying to avoid that. Some of us even (gasp!) do the work ourselves, learning as we go along. YIKES!

Re:I believe in free market capitalism (5, Interesting)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033839)

I don't want the mechanic who thinks he can figure it out.

Weeding guys out that don't know what they are doing is what the free market is for. It's the USA. No one is forcing you to go to an incompetent (see the word "compete" in there?) mechanic. If you want to go to the dealer, go to the dealer. Me? I'm going to keep driving my 10 year old Ford and take it to my broham, Juan, when it doesn't run well. He knows where to find and how to replace the several on board computers. And I support the local economy more directly by using an independent mechanic. Competition baby!

Re:I believe in free market capitalism (-1, Flamebait)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033709)

Adult film producer: I believe in free market capitalism ... Independent mechanics are usually a bunch of creepy fucks to begin with

geekboy642: Way to miss the point, pornologist. In a free market,

Is this an appropriately dramatic moment for a WHOOOOSH!! ?

Re:I believe in free market capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28034227)

I can believe this Thread. There is no "government-enforced monopoly" every car company has their own unpublished spec.

This is a battle between any company (DVD, DVR, BIOS, ect.) to not publish their API's and source code. AND The right of people to get there cars fix at the place of there choice. The government has to make laws to force them to publish.
    There was never a law saying to have to tell anyone how your stuff works.
That is why patents where created in the first place, to encourage it.

Good. (5, Insightful)

DinZy (513280) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033361)

I'd like them to take it a step further and have it so the owner can see the error codes and refer to the manual. I got a check engine light on a 2 month old car while driving across country with no dealer for 800 miles. I chose to risk it rather than have to pay a local mechanic to look at it. As it turned out it was only a dirty fuel filter caused by crappy gas. Forcing me to worry and go to a dealer 700 miles before my destination is really a crappy way to squeeze money out of someone who just gave you 30 grand.

Re:Good. (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033475)

you already can. Go get an OBD2 reader or have a shop pull the codes. Interpreting them is a bit harder - I thought there was legislation requiring manufacturers to divulge the codes, but I'm not sure.

Re:Good. (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033549)

The real problem right now is reprogramming data. OBD-II cars (everything 1996+ and some earlier) have standard protocol, connector, pinouts (kind of), et cetera. They also have standardized codes. But there are also manufacturer-specific codes which are only required to be provided for a reasonable fee which means (in practice) they can be presented as a book of text and they can charge you a hundred bucks. And most importantly there are manufacturer-specific codes which get sent to the PCM ("powertrain control module", what we used to call the ECU or "engine control unit"... but PCM is standardized terminology per OBD-II spec) which are used for tuning, for example for altitude.

Re:Good. (1)

NeuralAbyss (12335) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033783)

Just a bit of minor nitpicking..

ECU nowadays is a fairly generic term in automotive electronics - any module, be it a body electronics module, engine management system, immobiliser or such can be called an ECU.

Re:Good. (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033849)

Not really. All of those things have their own specific terminology. BCM, PCM, ABS module... And immobiliser? The immobilization of vehicles is done in the PCM, although sometimes there is an external unit which handles some aspects of security. It's a circuit, not a module, except when it's an add-on. And when it is, you certainly shouldn't call it the ECU, because someone might confuse it with the PCM... since it most certainly WAS normally called the "ECU" in pre-OBD-II ("OBD-I", though that is a significant misnomer it is commonly used) vehicles. We had computer keys with a wired interface before wireless immobilizers were mandated in the UK, but only on some vehicles.

Re:Good. (2, Insightful)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034063)

Please read and at least attempt to understand comment before replying...

Could you repeat that comment one more time so I can be sure I have it right?

Re:Good. (1)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034245)

Absolutely. I use an Auto-Xray to read all of those different brands, and it works great. It has saved me (and my friends) thousands of dollars over the last few years.

Nowadays I just ride a motorcycle, which is vastly easier to work on than a car. While there is no check engine light, it is very obvious when a cam chain tensioner or something similar goes kaputt. ;^)

Re:Good. (4, Informative)

jozlod (1304051) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033611)

i can bridge 2 pins on the ecu plug on mine, and its flashes the dash lights in sequence to give me the codes, its just a matter of looking them up. though im not sure if newer cars are still keeping anything like this available.

Also, generally if your engine light comes on, your car will go into limp home mode, which is a cut back operation that uses default configs and ignores either all or some of the sensors just to enable you to get home, or to a workshop somewhere without the working sensors.

Re:Good. (2, Interesting)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033747)

You can get the odb-II codes on a PT cruiser by switching the key from off to soft on (electrical system is active but the engine hasn't started) like 3 times or so. It'll then spit out the codes. I used those codes to replace my camshaft location sensor by the side of the road... A $35 dollar part, I sent my wife to buy a new one (she wasn't in the car at the time).

Re:Good. (5, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034053)

Time to spend more of my state-sponsored education. The mandatory light on all 1996+ cars is known as the MIL or Malfunction Indicator Light. The MIL lights when your vehicle's emissions are out of spec for any reason. I shit you not, that light is there specifically to tell you that your car is putting out excessive emissions. This happens whenever any of the "monitors" fails. A monitor is a list of conditions. Most monitors are "trip" monitors; a trip is a certain set of driving conditions. For example, if you run the vehicle at 50% or more load for a certain period of time and then coast for a certain period of time the car will operate the EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve, and it then has a chance to test to see if it is working. There's also a comprehensive monitor which runs every so often (pretty often actually) and checks to see if any sensors are giving a value which seems exceptionally wacky, either on its own or compared to the state of other sensors.

The MIL will clear itself so long as the fault was not serious (IIRC there are four conditions) if the monitor which failed passes three times in succession. All this is from memory so, bear with me if I get something slightly wrong. When it happens a snapshot is also stored. This is some of that "black box" data that can tattle on you in an accident; the car knows the position of the accelerator pedal and how fast it thinks you were going (and usually also knows what gear you're in and how many RPMs you're making, anyway, from separate sensors/senders) as well as the state of every other sensor under the hood, and possibly some others. There may also be a CEL (check engine light) and if the manufacturer is feeling particularly benevolent, a "check gauges" (or even "check gages"... heh heh) light which lights if, say, your oil pressure is low or your coolant temperature is high, but not so high that the computer thinks that what the sender is saying can't possibly be right.

Anyway, when any major sensor/sender flails the car will go into limp-home mode. It will also happen if there are repeated misfires, but misfires cause at least one of the monitors to fail (I forget which one though, sorry) and should light the MIL. The limp-home mode will not only retard the timing and thus reduce performance and worsen emissions, but in some cases it will also restrict maximum speed. When limping home the vehicle usually runs rich, which can kill your catalytic converter but which helps reduce misfires due to many types of engine problem.

Re:Good. (1)

jozlod (1304051) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034193)

quite an interesting read, thanks.
I know about the limp home mode, but yea, the emissions thing i havent heard much on, i guess i've always thought it was all the same thing with the engine light and errors codes.
I guess its lucky that i have a 1994 car then :-)

Re:Good. (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034251)

If I can buy an MP3 player that has a 2" video screen for $50 - the auto manufacturers have no excuse for not having a user-friendly display (better than cryptic flashing lights) built in with the OBDII interface. It should (in the US) use plain English to describe exactly what is wrong and what the implications are - no reference manual required - hell, the reference manual should be available on an on-board http server with a WiFi network that both serves the info to the owner's notebook PC, and downloads updates and tech bulletins (automatically, for free) when driven onto a dealer's lot.

Everything I have described above costs less than one air-bag, and should be standard equipment on all but the most basic models, and provided as an "at cost" option for any car it doesn't come standard on.

Should... in a fantasy world where the corporations are actually serving their customers.

Re:Good. (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034431)

They have the perfect excuse: Money.
They have the perfect backup bs excuse: Cars is hard!

They are protecting the poor, stupid, car owner. Who undoubtedly is incapable of understanding the workings of the modern car and therefore should always be directed to an authorized dealer to diagnose and repair any issues that pop up. Therefore, providing too much information must be avoided. The owner must prove they understand the workings of the car in order to access the information concerning the workings of their car.

You see, it's all for you really.

I can access codes on my car without any tool. (4, Interesting)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033815)

Interesting, numerous Cadillac models built after the start of OBD1 have the ability for the owner to both access and clear diagnostic codes by him/herself. My 1993 Cadillac Seville is one such car... I hold down two buttons on the dash, and I can access all of this information via the dash display.

In-dash text displays were rare in 1993, but now all most all cars have them... so this functionality really ought to be in all new vehicles.

It's YOUR car, isn't it? Then again, BMW has build a few models that have no dipstick and no oil cap (visible, anyway)... :(

Re:I can access codes on my car without any tool. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28034095)

Then again, BMW has build a few models that have no dipstick and no oil cap (visible, anyway)... :(

They bigger problem is that BMW has gone to runflat tires to save the space for the spare tire. Runflats are handy, but they are MUCH more expensive to replace. Winter runflat tires are even more expensive.

Re:Good. (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034141)

you already can. Go get an OBD2 reader or have a shop pull the codes. Interpreting them is a bit harder - I thought there was legislation requiring manufacturers to divulge the codes, but I'm not sure.

Point of the article is that the standard OBD2 readers aren't cutting it anymore, they're giving the legally required (smog related) codes and nothing else. If you want a reader like the dealer uses, prepare to fork out more than you paid for the car... This is why the independent mechanics are feeling screwed.

Re:Good. (2, Insightful)

waterm (261542) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034429)

You are mostly right but the problem isn't that the vehicles don't spit out all of the codes (they will), the problem is interpreting them in a meaningful fashion.

Re:Good. (3, Interesting)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033477)

You can get readers for them which will clear the code after you fixed the problem. I've seen some that give a warning level on how bad the code is. Just because you have the code and maybe even the explanation, doesn't mean you'll know what to do though.

P0411 - secondary air injection incorrect flow

It means either a hose has a hole, or a solenoid, vavle, or pump isn't working. This is basically an emissions system which I'd rip out in a heartbeat if I didn't have to pass an emissions test.

Re:Good. (1)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033517)

For a lot of the simpler codes, you can buy an OBD code reader for not much money. I bought a really cheap one when my light kept coming on. Unfortunately, it told me that the problem was my knock sensor and not the gas cap being put on wrong, but it saves me from having to pay just to find out that nothing is wrong.

The roll of the dice (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033523)

I got a check engine light on a 2 month old car while driving across country with no dealer for 800 miles. I chose to risk it rather than have to pay a local mechanic to look at it.

You gambled. You won. This time.

Now tell me why you chose a car which has one dealer every 1000 miles. 30 grand does not buy you a Rolls-Royce.

Re:The roll of the dice (2, Informative)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033607)

I take it you haven't driven cross-country before? It's rather easy to get in a situation like this.

Re:The roll of the dice (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033639)

Perhaps he was in a place where there was no dealer of any kind for 800 miles. He didn't say what country he was driving across. Still, Autozone keeps advertising in my area that they'll read the code for you for free, so dealers must not be the only people who can read 'em.

Re:The roll of the dice (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033909)

In a Rolls-Royce he could have pulled over to the side of the road, borrowed a passing motorist's cell phone, and had them send a tow truck to the nearest town, where they would put him up in a hotel, while they flew a mechanic to him.

(Or at least, that used to be their policy. I've heard some amazing stories about the level of service they give. Of course, if you charge that much for a car, I'd expect amazing service.)

Re:Good. (3, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033609)

Cars are already more or less pretty open with some proprietary stuff tacked on. ODB-II (or now CAN) has a set list of standard messages that everyone uses. Now car companies can choose to extend into their own messages if they want. Engine speed, throttle, etc all have a set upon CAN Id.

AutoZone and AdvanceAuto and every other car repair place will read these codes for free. They may be cryptic (Your fault could have probably been FUEL PRESS LOW or something), but Google and auto forums can decode them for you pretty easily.

There are also 3rd party options (at least for VW). Ross-Tech makes VAG-COM [ross-tech.com] which will let you connect to almost any ECM in your car and read diagnostics or monitor blocks which is much cheaper than VW's "OE" tool (Many $k).

Now letting them see the latest service manuals would help, many companies use MATLAB/Simulink to autocode their ECM software. The lines of code and the possibility for bugs is scary. And like software companies, no one is going to be doing software updates on 3-4 year old cars meaning instead of "Don't buy X car because the wheel bearing goes bad" you could get a bug report of "Don't buy X car because the throttle position sensor flips out".

Re:Good. (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033679)

CAN is a wiring spec and a protocol and falls under OBD-II; You can read all about the SNAFU on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] but the short form is that there are five protocols including CAN, which is mandatory on 2008 and later vehicles. Wikipedia doesn't make it clear that CAN has been allowed for in OBD-II for years, if not all along, but that is indeed the case. AFAIK CAN is the most expensive of the protocols to implement, so some OBD-II interfaces don't include CAN support. CAN is also commonly used for communications between the PCM and the computer which operates the transmission, so your PCM might actually have multiple CAN interfaces, though only one of them pins out to the OBD-II connector.

Re:Good. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033775)

A better option is to just reform software patent laws. If we make software patents work like machinery patents this whole thing would be solved.

Specifically-

Source code == Blueprint
Compiled code == working model

You can get a patent with one or the other, or both, but then you have to file it with the patent office.
Any changes to the patented design of a significant functional nature invalidate the patent, just like with hardware.

If I make a device that is designed to alter your product, it is NOT a patent or copyright violation, until you enter the world of software. This is horsecrap. Being able to not only patent a specific program, but an entire algorithm and everything it applies to is a drastic abuse of the very idea of patents.

sigh..

Re:Good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033901)

More likely you didn't screw the gas cap down all the way and got screwed for the cost of replacing the FF (I certainly hope you didn't get charged more than $30).

Any car with a decent warranty would've given you the option of calling their corporate help line to send a flatbed from the nearest dealer. It's pretty standard these days.

This is a very old issue (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033369)

And I thought it was resolved long ago. But now that I am part owner of "big auto" since my government now owns controlling shares in it, I have to say that there is NO "trade secret" that should be allowed to supercede the right to repair or modifiy your personally owned equipment. This is especially true when the purpose of said "trade secret" is the protection measure itself.

Re:This is a very old issue (5, Insightful)

Rayeth (1335201) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033503)

The argument for DRM in the car MIGHT fly in cars that are leased (which in my lay-person's brain sounds somewhat similar to a license for using software), but there can be absolutely no reason for preventing me from accessing information on something that I own outright.

Its not like I bought a license to drive the car (that was provided freely (sans a few yearly fees) by the government of my state), I own the metal. What possible argument can there be for preventing me from reading the information in my car's engine?

Re:This is a very old issue (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033825)

The same argument that says you can only used licensed DVD players to play the DVDs that you own.

Re:This is a very old issue (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033929)

Unless you paid gold for your car, you don't technically own it. For a small yearly fee, you are allowed certain rights to your car, but the government actually owns it. This is why they must be titled and tagged. If you pay gold for your car, you get a special certificate from the car company, and you don't have to tag or title it. I'm sorry can't find the link, but it's very interesting.

They can have their DRM... (1)

Statecraftsman (718862) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033449)

on the essential car systems stuff but can auto manufacturers separate it from the user facing stuff? I'm thinking I'd like one of these [lemote.com] to be driving the GPS, screen, and sound system.

Re:They can have their DRM...or not (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033511)

sure they can have their drm..as long as it's still THEIR car.. once it becomes MY car, then no, they can't.

Re:They can have their DRM... (2, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033629)

They can have their DRM on the essential car systems stuff but can auto manufacturers separate it from the user facing stuff?

Not sure what you mean by essential car systems stuff vs. user facing stuff (the computers running the engine, traction control, brakes, navigation radars, autodrive, etc. all report to the user via the dashboard) however DRM is meant to protect copyrighted material. Last I heard, lists of data (such as the error logs that a car's computer might produce) are not copyrightable material. I could understand having such protection on the software running the computer, but not on the data it produces.

Nader needs a nerd army, sign up today! (1)

Xanavi (1197431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033481)

Sounds reasonable to me. Common standards are always good to have, even if hardly used. Nice to have around just in case.

We should call Richard Stallman (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033555)

The geek world already has a 'public' opponent of DRM: Richard Stallman. Nader has questionable ethical leanings...

Re:Nader needs a nerd army, sign up today! (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033695)

Actually, cars do use a common standard - CAN bus. The actual problem is the higher level protocol which is vendor-specific. It gets even more complicated, though, because many vendors use third-party parts from common suppliers (for example Bosch or Continental). Depending on what vendor has requested the part first, it may happen, that a BMW has a device which speaks Daimler protocol so there is a device inbetween which translates Mercedes protocol to BMW protocol.

DRM when your life is at stake? (5, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033495)

Its one thing to introduce DRM to protect the copyright on a song, book or video. That isn't fair but it's also unlikely to get anyone killed. (Laws that introduce overly harsh penalties like jail time, ruin a career, or bankrupt someone are a whole other kettle of fish). How can any company justify pricing people out of having their car repaired? Lives are at stake. I wonder how long it'll take before people start suing because repair work was so unreasonably expensive via authorized channels that it leads to injury and death? It should be illegal to lock up certain kinds of information. It should be illegal to use laws like these to prevent competition where lives are at stake.

Re:DRM when your life is at stake? (5, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034007)

Lives are at stake

see: big pharma.

clue: no one cares about 'lives'. the world is only about money and power and control.

(sorry for the wake-up call).

Re:DRM when your life is at stake? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034265)


see: big pharma.

clue: no one cares about 'lives'. the world is only about money and power and control.

See: Rule of Law

Clue: Laws were invented and should be revised to protect people and allow society to function more smoothly. Your condescension, cynicism and defeatism are unhelpful.

Not technically necessary, but... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033497)

The article cites the DMCA as a legal problem, but this doesn't apply in this case. In fact, two of the cases it cites, garage door openers and printer ink cartridges, have already gone to court, and in both cases the judge determined that "lock-out" codes are not protected by the DMCA because they're meant to prevent interoperability, not copyright infringement.

Technically, this Right To Repair act is unnecessary. As long as you're bypassing the restrictions for the sake of interoperability, you're legally in the clear.

But that's only in a perfect world. Unfortunately, in this litigious society you're likely to get sued anyway. It's too bad doing something perfectly legal can still end up costing you thousands in legal fees. Hopefully with an actual law to back up the rulings, there will be a lot fewer lawsuits

Re:Not technically necessary, but... (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033985)

The law is necessary because without it written clearly (and sometimes even when it IS written clearly) it will not stop the auto makers from trying to sue you with their army of lawyers. And you could be right... but they will still lawyer you to death. We've all seen it.

Re:Not technically necessary, but... (3, Insightful)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034217)

...auto makers from trying to sue you with their army of lawyers.

The most accurate statement of the reason American automotive companies are failing -- focusing on developing fine points of law instead of the fine points of automotive engineering.

Happening in Canada too (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033563)

Right-to-Repair is also being fought over in Canadian federal parliament. Bill C273 just passed its second reading

http://www.righttorepair.ca/ [righttorepair.ca]

Related: build your own car diagnostic reader (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033745)

I found instructions on how to build your own OBD-II protocol reader [nerdkits.com] , although it only works on some types of cars. Apparently the manufacturers couldn't agree on one protocol...

some comments on OBD-II (5, Insightful)

mzs (595629) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033781)

OBD-II (the UART mentioned in the article) does not really tell you what is wrong with your car. It gives you another clue. Experience, know-how, tools, other clues, and a process of elimination tells you what is wrong with your car. OBD-II tells you that something was detected like a knock, misfire, oxygen rich, emissions leak, etc. Now a mechanic has to hunt down the cause and fix that. I just wanted to make that clear. It is like looking at iostat not dtrace.

It will be nice to get the codes, but most of them are pretty much known by now. Some ranges are pretty defacto standard too. It's annoying though that the codes can be different on the same model car sold in CA vs IL though. That can trip you up when you have a code list that does not include the correct region.

Re:some comments on OBD-II (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033941)

Right. And the codes are often useless. I had a car that was running rich. I could tell by the response, decreased mileage, and smell of the exhaust. I had somebody read the codes. I got a nice little printout that said . . .

"fuel mixture rich"

Re:some comments on OBD-II (4, Informative)

LackThereof (916566) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034347)

If the mix is rich, and the computer KNOWS that the mix is rich, that narrows it down quite a bit. Then the only possibilities are the airflow sensor, or possibly the fuel pressure regulator. (Of course, if it's a car without an airflow sensor, it could potentially be the throttle position sensor or maybe the manifold air pressure sensor. But most cars rely on a MAF sensor nowdays.)

If the mix is rich, and the computer claims "fuel mixture lean" or believes nothing at all is wrong, the problem is most likely the O2 sensor, and the computer is being fooled into enriching the mix.

I think the codes are quite useful. They let you know what the car is thinking.

Re:some comments on OBD-II (2, Interesting)

thesandbender (911391) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034445)

I'm not sure which cars you've been working on, but the OBD-II interface on my 2001 BMW provides an insane amount of information. Fuel flows, air flows, oxygen sensor voltage, etc... all real time. A lot of times people are just using those little $100-200 hand held OBD-II readers you can buy at PepBoys. Those just flash the error codes and maybe some real time information. Repair shops will have a dedicated console or a laptop with software that can display all the additional information. Your right in that it won't always tell you the specific problem... a busted catalytic convert will show up as a bad post-cat O2 sensor. However, it does provide very detailed and specific information that allows you narrow down the problem before you even start tooling on the car.

I'm... I'm confused... (3, Funny)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033793)

Do... do I still try to make a car analogy?

Maybe a simple "In Soviet Russia car analogy make you?"

Re:I'm... I'm confused... (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034039)

No, you have to make computer analogies.

DRM on cars is bad as DRM on computer software and data access. We can already demonstrate why DRM is a bad idea for data and software. Now you just make an analogy that car owners can understand.

Interestingly enough, if lawmakers can be convinced that DRM on cars is bad, we just got closer to killing the DMCA.

Suprised at Nader (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033795)

Ralph will lose this one. Manufacturers will claim energy efficiency and emissions will suffer if they aren't permitted to sell proprietary products capable of meeting 'tough new requirements.' Manufacturers will convince the lobbies involved that their exclusive service is the only way to ensure the behavior of these designs. Produce exactly one credible example where 'right-to-repair' enables more power in place of better economy and you will never hear about 'right-to-repair' again. The enviro argument trumps all.

Enjoy. You voted for it.

Cars are too complex (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28033801)

We should just go back to points-and-condenser ignition systems and carburetors on stovebolt-6 engines with 4-speed manual transmissions feeding rear-wheel-drive on a full steel chassis (i.e. not unibody). Then ANYBody could work on it!

Meh. (1)

rfuilrez (1213562) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033837)

Well, most car manufacturers ARE offering pretty reasonable warranties anymore. 10year/100,000Miles is not unheard of, and actually pretty common. When they're backing the car for that much time / wear should they not have an exclusive right to the work done on the vehicle?

As it stands, they are doing everything legal. The government said "You need to provide us with a standardized list of codes for EMISSIONS diagnosis and repair. It has to be available on a standard connector, with standard pin locations. The codes have to be able to be read by any OBDII compliant code reader." It even has it specified how fast baud rate of the datastream has to be. So they did that. They put more "debugging" stuff in their for their own help. If you want to spent the money, you can buy your own OEM scan tools, and have everything that dealer technicians have.

Lets use a software analogy since we can't use a car analogy. If Microsoft built in debugging modes into Windows 8, and didn't provide anyone who is not a Microsoft certified IT specialist have access to it without costing a bunch of money to unlock it, are they in the wrong?

Re:Meh. (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034287)

"Well, most car manufacturers ARE offering pretty reasonable warranties anymore. 10year/100,000Miles is not unheard of, and actually pretty common. When they're backing the car for that much time / wear should they not have an exclusive right to the work done on the vehicle?"

They are offering those to be competitive, it isn't generosity, and the warranties are not for every part of the car under every circumstance. For example, what about someone repairing crash damage? Should they be forced to go to a dealer?

A ten-year-old car is often not worth paying dealer labor rates to fix, so this is really "planned obsolescence by vendor lock". As a mechanic I gan get around this affordably by playing "swaptronics", but the general public are not so fortunate.

That's One For Ralph! . . but (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#28033895)

Now he only needs to do four trillion more good things before he evens out in my karma book. Sometimes Ralph's freakishly huge ego works for good; other times. . ..

How was this Conceived!? (1)

neanderslob (1207704) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034041)

Who at the company said that this would be a good idea!? I wonder how the conversation in that meeting went. "Well I'll agree to invest in this new technology but ONLY on the condition that we use encryptions for the sole purpose of making it HARDER for the customer to fix their $40,000 investment." The only thing that would make this better is if Chevy Ford or Chrysler helped to pioneer this piece cerebral excrement.

Open standards before cars can fly... (4, Funny)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034057)

I hope they get this sorted out before cars can fly. I'd like to know that 3 long blinks and 2 short ones means my parachute failed... long before I'm cursing the manual while free-falling from 20,000 feet.

Outright Dangerous (5, Interesting)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034129)

In my case it was an error code that Mini do everything they can to keep meaningless... as opposed to DRM. It was also potentially life threatening.

Coming back out of the mountains, the electric system shut off in the car, the engine cut out. There was no shoulder so the first place out of traffic we could get to was the gap between the main freeway traffic and an oncoming merge lane.

It was a fairly dangerous spot - no walls, no guard rail to get behind, between two streams of traffic moving at speed - but the best option we had.

The car restarted, flashing up CC-ID 354 - whatever that meant. Most likely, we'd be safe pulling away and finding a less risky spot. But, if it was about to fail again, as we accelerated, we'd be dumped, stalled, in the middle of moving traffic with no shoulder.

Obvious answer: Call Mini service. First Mini dealership couldn't get their service department to answer. They sent me to Mini Roadside Assistance. That muppet had a call sheet he had to work through and couldn't do anything as he couldn't find out VIN in the system. By this point, as we got buffeted by every passing big rig, my wife told him she didn't give a damn about whether we were in the system or not, we simply needed to know if 354 meant it was safe or unsafe to move... Turns out he has none of the details. All he can do is call a tow truck. We hung up and called another dealership's service. They at least answered but refused to say what it meant, only that we shouldn't drive it. No details about whether it would likely get us half a mile to the next off ramp, nothing.

An online search (thank you iPhones) turned up nothing (curse you googles). Turns out the codes are kept pretty much to Mini alone.

What angers me about the whole experience is that "Error 354 means a fuse has blown and the car will stall over 10mph" would've told me there really was no safe way off. "Error 354 means the keyless ignition charger has a faulty connection, drive with the key out of the charger and take it in for service." would have told me it was safe to get out of that exposed position. "It's a secret" did nothing save endanger us.

DRM ? UART? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28034155)

Most New Cars use the CAN Bus. Not RS-232.
DRM = Digital Rights Management?
No It is Just Proprietary codes. You could try to figure them out.
The Issue is that with out the definition of the codes mean you can not fix the car. No codes no locks no DRM. Just plain old fashion Obscurity.

Re:DRM ? UART? (2, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034301)

Actually there are lots of buses in new cars. CAN bus is used for component interconnection. LIN bus is used for sensors. MOST bus is used for car multimedia. FlexRay is the replacement for CAN bus but not yet widely used. That UART mentioned is just a diagnostic output.

Jeep Oil Change indicator (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#28034443)

So, while we are on a vehicle codes and warning issue:
Does anyone know how to reset the fscking Oil Change warning on a Jeep?

No, the 3 time gas pedal thing DOES NOT work...

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