West Virginia wants to ban Tesla and other automakers from sending out over-the-air updates, among other things, to vehicle owners. In a letter from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) obtained by CleanTechnica, the group lists all of the issues it has with this problematic bill that was initially designed to benefit dealers.
The group is taking a stand against the bill since, if made into law, it would harm consumers in order to benefit auto dealers. The letter was sent to me by an anonymous source who explained that the bill, HB 4560, was introduced by the dealership trade association. It is essentially designed to protect dealership interests. However, it overreaches to a point where it would harm both customers and dealers by blocking online car purchases, over-the-air updates, and even advertising by auto manufacturers.
In the letter, Auto Innovators wrote:
“Rather than leveling the playing field between dealers and manufacturers, this bill would drastically alter the rights and obligations of automotive manufacturers and their franchised dealers in West Virginia. Many of the proposed changes would benefit dealers but would ultimately impose costs and inconvenience on the citizens of West Virginia.
“Auto Innovators has identified specific concerns and issues with House Bill 4560, which if enacted would have impacts far beyond the dealer-manufacturer relationship. Auto Innovators and its members would appreciate the opportunity to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss these concerns in further detail and answer any questions committee members may have related to HB 4560.”
West Virginia HB 4560 Language On OTA Updates
One of the concerns with the language of this bill is that it would ban auto manufacturers such as Tesla from performing over-the-air software updates for its customers. The bill states:
“Except for experimental low-volume not-for-retail sale vehicles, cause warranty and recall repair work to be performed by any entity other than a new motor vehicle dealer, including post-sale software and hardware upgrades or changes to vehicle function and features, and accessories for new motor vehicles sold by a licensed new motor vehicle dealer. Provided however, this language shall not include any post-sale software upgrades to the motor vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system.”
In the letter, Auto Innovators pointed out that the language is designed to prohibit manufacturers from providing over-the-air updates directly to consumers’ vehicles. So far, no other state has made such a needless law. The group writes:
“Over-the-air updates allow consumers to update their vehicles from the convenience of their driveways, without the need to travel all the way to the dealership. This language would prevent manufacturers from utilizing those over-the-air vehicle updates in West Virginia.
“This is a complex and cutting edge topic, but the biggest concern here is that restricting software updates would needlessly harm consumers and potentially create safety risks.
“Dealers lack the infrastructure and capacity to deliver software updates to consumers over the air. In addition, manufacturer-owned software is proprietary and protected by federal intellectual property rights, meaning dealers have no claim to those property rights and no authority to distribute software licenses of software they do not own.
“As a result, consumers would have to make time to take their vehicle into a franchised dealer for every system update. In practice, this additional inconvenience would needlessly to consumers driving vehicles with out-of-date software which may bear on some aspects of vehicle operation.
“It also would needlessly prevent manufacturers from conveniently delivering electronics-related recalls to consumers meaning many vehicles on West Virginia roads could have issues that can be easily be corrected in the background via over-the-air fixes.
“It is not enough that the definition carves out ‘navigation or entertainment systems.’ Those systems are just two aspects of the software in modern vehicles. They are the most visible to car owners, but this technology can also be deployed to ensure vehicles are able to be updated to operate as efficiently and safely as possible.”
Auto Innovators emphasized that its members are opposed to this new definition in its entirety.
The Takeaway: This Bill Is Not Good For West Virginia Residents
Over-the-air software updates are vital for companies such as Tesla that routinely deliver software fixes and upgrades to their customers. It’s more than convenience. This also becomes a safety issue. If West Virginia was to make this illegal, then Tesla would have to find a way to update its customers’ vehicles in a slower way, and delays in getting updates could become a safety issue.
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