May 31, 2004

Technological Alienation (and Rent Extraction) [11:30 am]

Drivers Want Code to Their Cars

Rachel Seymour, a college student from Portland, Oregon, has had her 2002 Kia Spectra serviced 12 times for a Check Engine light problem. Each time, she’s forced to take it to a Kia dealership, where a technician hooks her car up to a computer, runs a battery of tests and charges her $120 to diagnose and repair the same problem: a loose gas cap.

[...] Fed up with wasting time and money, Seymour resorted to a low-tech solution to mask the high-tech problem: She covered the warning light with electrical tape so she wouldn’t have to look at it.

[...] A bill floating through Congress could help people like Seymour by forcing automakers to share diagnostic codes with car buyers and independent mechanics. The Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act would give Seymour the means to determine whether the Check Engine light signaled another gas cap vagary or a major oil leak. The legislation would also allow Seymour to choose an independent — and possibly cheaper — repair shop instead of being forced to go to the dealership.

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