A bill introduced in the West Virginia House this month seeks to ban over-the-air updates for vehicles, likely in order to help safeguard automotive dealers’ profits.
The bill, HB4560, aims to prohibit automakers from issuing over-the-air updates on vehicles that would alter software to change the vehicle’s functionality. As the law currently states, warranty and recall repair work on vehicles are not to be performed “by any entity other than a new motor vehicle dealer.”
This bill would introduce new text to the existing law that would also prohibit automakers from offering “post-sale software and hardware upgrades or changes to vehicle function and features,” over the air, as this circumvents automotive dealer service centers. The bill also says the language “shall not include any post-sale software upgrades to the motor vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system,” which indicates automakers would still be free to push updates to vehicles regarding their infotainment system operation, so long as they did not impact overall vehicle performance.
This bill was introduced by West Virginia’s automotive dealership trade association. From the outside, it seems as though these dealers are worried that increasingly common over-the-air updates in new vehicles will reduce the chances that owners will come into the dealership for physical repairs, which could negatively impact profits. The bill goes beyond addressing over-the-air updates and would also prohibit manufacturers from engaging in direct-to-consumer sales and even “advertising to sell, lease, exchange or convey a new motor vehicle.”
As first reported by Clean Technica, a major automotive industry lobbying group called the Alliance for Automotive Innovation has written a letter hitting out against HB4560, which says that many of the proposed changes in the bill “would benefit dealers but would ultimately impose costs and inconvenience on the citizens of West Virginia.” The Alliance for Automotive Innovation represents a handful of major international automakers, including Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Nissan, among others.
“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,” the Alliance for Automotive Innovation also said in the letter. “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,” it added.
This bill, if signed into law, would prevent GM from offering over-the-air updates in West Virginia that alter or change the performance of its vehicles, a capability that its recently introduced Global B architecture implements. This would also prevent GM from rolling out its new Linux-based Ultifi digital vehicle platform over the air in West Virginia, which it describes as “a powerful hub for vehicle systems,” including the infotainment system and hardware controls. Ultifi will be particularly important to future EVs, enabling GM to update, change or improve a vehicle’s running operation remotely.