Many new automobiles today, just like more and more of the gadgets and seemingly ordinary things that we use daily, are equipped with their own sophisticated software.
After all, Volkswagen’s emissions crisis involved illegally manipulating vehicle software in order to fool regulators. Now, the very software in your vehicle might become accessible to you, not just to the auto manufacturer.
Normally, this wouldn’t be the case, as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act expressly prohibits the unlocking of any access controls put in place in specific types of software. However, recently, the Library of Congress’s Copyright Office released a list of its software exemptions, which it does every three years. And you guessed it, auto software is on it for the very first time.
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What This Means.
Because of the new exemption, those who own vehicles with accessible software, which includes many new cars and even farming vehicles, will be able to access and alter their software for diagnostic, repair, or modification purposes. This doesn’t mean that people will be able to do whatever they want. Any modifications made to the software will not be allowed to go against copyright or any other laws that are in place. In addition, alterations can’t be made to a vehicle’s entertainment systems.
Who Opposes It.
Many groups are against this new exemption, feeling as if it brings with it a host of different dangers. Those who oppose it include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, and various auto groups. They feel as if allowing people to access the software can lead to similar issues like those of the Volkswagen Scandal.
Of course, most auto manufacturers also oppose it, but for different reasons, which includes being weary of users and the competition stealing some of their software “secrets.” Many aspects of the software used in vehicles are the intellectual property of the auto manufacturers, and they are, not surprisingly, wholly against this exemption.
When It Goes Into Effect.
Because of the large amount of concern and resistance, this exemption won’t go into effect until sometime in the late fall or early winter of this year. The reason is so that regulators and the auto manufacturers themselves will have enough time to adjust to this new freedom that people will have, such as through making software adjustments for safety purposes or, in the case of regulators, making new tests to take into account any possible manipulation that could occur.
Regardless, while this is a big deal, the average consumer won’t even bother to access their vehicle’s software. It involves a large amount of computer software knowledge to make any changes, and if a non-experienced user were to access the software, he or she could possibly hinder their vehicle’s performance, to the point where it becomes dangerous.
This will become a bigger issue in the future, especially as some people become more experienced with being able to tinker with the software. It’s certainly up to the manufacturers to implement security measures in the software to prevent any type of abuse. Stay tuned.
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