There has been a disturbing
trend in the auto industry over the last several years. As regulations constantly tighten to make new vehicles safer and cleaner, carmakers around the world are making new cars more and more complicated. Toss in the ever-growing tech war to have the coolest gadgets and digital readouts and new cars have more in common with a supercomputer than their own ancestors.
All this tech makes it harder and harder for the backyard mechanic to tinker on their own vehicles. The dipstick is already an archaic artifact of motoring’s past, replaced with electrical sensors that count down an oil change service on the service screen of the gauge cluster.
My biggest worry is that once older vehicles and the people who drive them become the unknown variable in highway safety, could it become illegal to work on our own vehicles or even drive them manually once computer driven autonomous vehicles become the norm? Reality check – several manufacturers will be bringing autonomous vehicles to market in 2018!
Toss conspiracy theorist slander at me all you want, but the government, at least the U.S. government (EPA specifically), is already putting forward proposals to outlaw some vehicle owners. The proposal takes aim at those who wish to modify certified motor vehicles, engines and their emission control devices, regulating that all emissions equipment must remain in their certified configuration even if they are used solely for competition.
“The EPA is adding new language to the regulations (Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles). This new language states that a motor vehicle can never be modified, even if it is used solely for competition and never again used on public roads. The EPA is seeking to prohibit modifications affecting any emissions-related component, such as engines, engine control modules, intakes, exhaust systems, etc.” explains SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association.
While this is distinctly a U.S. political dispute, Canadian regulators often follow suit with American motoring laws, particularly those put forth by the EPA.
SEMA, as well as several U.S. Congressmen were fighting the proposed regulation changes, which were set to go into effect this July. Thankfully, just before we went to print, the EPA agreed to not implement this added language into the act thanks to the pressure from SEMA, supporting politicians and over 170,000 signed petitions.
So, what does this mean for our future? The U.S. government does not like that we can modify our vehicles, and in several foreign countries, modifications are already illegal or require certification. We’ve won this battle, but I am concerned there may be several more to fight, and our entire lifestyle may hinge on the outcome.
Our lifestyle (that of being able to drive off-road) depends on three very important things - access to the backcountry, the ability to change the specifications of our vehicles and the freedom to drive our vehicles… without aid of computer if one so wishes. So far two of these aspects have come under fire and I predict that in the next decade, the third will also.
So, be vigilant fellow wheelers, do not be ignorant of the forces that could one day end this wonderful thing we call off- roading. We have side stepped a large disaster, but don’t let this close call go unheeded.