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09/11/2017

Massimo Brunamonti

GREAT TURMOIL IN EUROPE AROUND NEW VEHICLE APPROVAL SYSTEMS, CONNECTED VEHICLES AND ACCESS TO TECHNICAL DATA

Perhaps, as chance would have it, two of the biggest EU issues involving new legislations and the automotive industry reached the debating phase simultaneously. We are looking at two European Commission initiatives as a result of the "shockwaves" sent throughout the industry by the now not so recent but still infamous Dieselgate: a revision of motor vehicle approval processes (type approval) including connected vehicles and access to technical data. Both issues, not necessarily related to each other, are of utmost interest for the car repair sector  given the numerous and serious after-sale implications that could arise.

To understand the scope of the issues at stake one has to first, get a little background information. The link between the two different laws was set forth in Regulation 566/2011, the famous Euro 5/6, which dictates that car manufacturers must publish repair and maintenance data when a new vehicle passes the approval stage; this data is then made available to the entire aftermarket, whether independent or not, readily, economically and in a non-discriminatory manner. It is obvious that a new Approval Directive such as the one currently being debated should not and cannot ignore Euro 5/6 rules in this respect.

At the same time, developments surrounding connected vehicles and the entry into force of laws regulating emergency calls, or “eCall”, dictated a further Commission investigation on assessing the need to regulate access to vehicles, also as a result of the great turmoil taking place among the industry’s biggest players, whether manufacturers or digital service providers. The “digital race” is on; everyone is hoping to get in the car and give the motorist a chance to stay connected as if sitting on his living room couch. This has a worldwide impact on mobility, including the auto repair and service world, as new and different ways of accessing maintenance and repair data will or will not be enforced by legal requirements or the behaviour of the manufacturers. An example of this is the recent “ Extended Vehicle” proposal, developed by several  German car manufacturers and OEM suppliers, which represents a great concern for the independent market.

The European Commission has thus considered it appropriate to intervene in the matter: the C-ITS Committee, which was specifically set up, has, as we know, identified all possible operational scenarios and commissioned a TRL study on "Access to in-vehicle data and resources". The study, completed in May 2017 (see https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/its/studies/its_it ), analyzed the issues on the table, but the results produced were rather inconsistent, and restricted to mere observations on how all the scenarios are technically feasible, albeit with different times, costs and consequences, but all showed weak points, such as the time required to implement the measures, guaranteeing open and fair competition, or on the complexity of developing such ideas.

It seems to us though, that the part concerning the need for a decisive legislative action is rather disappointing due to its ambiguity: it does state, in fact, that in some situations, a policy of non-intervention is perhaps the best option, admitting immediately after how some scenarios, such as the “Extended Vehicle”, show, in their current form, a total incompatibility with the principles of free and fair competition.

Given the nature of the issues at stake and their close connection, the legislators must, at this point, consider whether and how to deal with the matter of access to technical data in both the legislative processes.

AFCAR, the Alliance for the Freedom of Car Repair in the EU (see: https://www.egea-association.eu/alliances/), of which AICA is an active member through EGEA, has clearly denounced a potentially dangerous lack of rules. The text proposed by the Commission for new approvals, basically does not refer to an interface as an on-board link tool. Fortunately, the European Parliament grasped the magnitude of the problem and proposed a few amendments introducing the OBD interface as a tool for diagnostic interconnection and access to technical data. As stated by AFCAR, the presence of an open and accessible interface, such as the properly regulated OBD, would be the ideal access tool for technical data, regulated by Euro 5/6 laws. Today, the OBD is the quintessential “de facto” access tool, used by the entire aftermarket, but has no legal citizenship except for emission data. Missing out on the opportunity to regulate such a widely used instrument would be a serious mistake; thus providing a short term solution to the problems allowing needed time to think about something more extensive and functional for the future.

We hope that Brussels, about to kick off a  three-way discussion between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council on this matter, listens to the industry and avoids missing out on the opportunity to welcome a prompt, cost-effective and immediate solution, such as the OBD.

 

CEN SAFETY RULES FOR HEAVY DUTY ROLLER BRAKE TEST BENCHES; DEFINITIVE TEXT UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED

The proposal for an international safety standard for heavy duty roller brake test benches, developed by the CEN (European Committee for Standardization) as already stated in this section as early as 2016, concluded its endorsement procedure with the unanimous approval by all CEN members.

The proposal originated in France following two deadly accidents in quick succession which obviously raised the attention of the authorities on the issue of safety in the workplace; as a result, France developed a specific national standard that was then used as a springboard to launch a European process for the definition of a CEN standard which culminated in the creation of a CEN / TC 301 WG Working Group 11. Several national delegations participated in the working group; Italy was represented by CUNA (Technical Commission for Automotive Standardization), affiliated to UNI (Italian Standardization Body), which worked with the support of AICA, the Italian Garage Equipment Manufacturer Association, which includes one of the most representative groups of brake tester manufacturers and, more in general, of workshop equipment.

The process required more than two years of meetings and elaborations; all participating national technical delegations reached an agreement on a security standard that was considered appropriate by all experts, including representatives from national safety authorities, such as, for example, engineers from the Italian Ministry of Labour. The approved text includes the minimum requirements to ensure adequate safety levels for a heavy duty roller brake test bench.

It is not inappropriate to note that, despite different and sometimes conflicting opinions, thanks to common discernment and to a positive contribution by all the delegates involved, the proceedings resulted in a shared solution. We would dearly like to see this being repeated on many other issues in Europe.

The CEN standard, thus developed and approved, will be probably published officially by the end of 2017, after which all national agencies, including UNI for Italy, have six months as a transposition deadline. The standard, is good to remember, is a unified European standard that fits within the Machinery Directive 2006/42 / EC.

The implications for manufacturers are important, as the rule is binding as far as CE markings are concerned. As the standard enters into force, heavy duty roller brake test benches producers (> 3,5 tons), in order to comply with the CE marking, will have to take all necessary steps to make their products compliant with CEN standards: additional safety devices, proper installation and user manuals instructions and much more. The concern is not about how to implement all of this: the know-how and experience of Italian manufacturers are a guarantee in this regard; the concern, rather, is if and how the market will be receptive to these safety guidelines. Implementing these CEN standards, in fact, will cause a hefty rise in the cost of equipment caused by additional security devices; the problem is: will garage owners be sufficiently informed about the matter so as not to remain victim of misinformation or unfair competition, a phenomena we are unfortunately very accustomed to? If safety is a must, it is in the interest of everyone to follow the guidelines, especially when, as this is case, the standards have been so clearly stated. Furthermore, a correct and timely action on the part of the sector’s association will be beneficial in curbing illicit behaviours by unscrupulous operators.

 

 

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