Over the past decade, cars have gotten more complex and computerized. Each vehicle is now studded with sensors, packed with hundreds or thousands of computer chips, and controlled by software. Auto industry insiders have waxed poetic about the safety benefits of the “software-defined vehicle”—which also enables revenue-boosting data collection and subscriptions that make it safer to be an auto executive too.
Less talked about are the consequences of computerized cars at the auto shop. Fixing complex vehicles requires increasingly expert and expensive knowledge, and tools that are in limited supply. It’s part of the same trend that has driven some farmers to hack their own tractors and triggered legal fights over what rights consumers have over their own vehicles.