If the right-to-repair movement has a famous story, it’s the familiar green and yellow John Deere tractor. Farmers and mechanics have done their own repairs as long as there have been tractors, but more recent Deeres have been locked down such that only Deere-authorised agents can fix them. It’s a trend that has hurt the value of a second-had Deere, but despite that it appears to be spreading within the machinery world. Now there’s a parallel on Polish railways, as Polish-made Newag electric passenger trains have been found to give errors when serviced by non-Newag workshops.
At the heart of the problem are the PLCs which control all aspects of a modern rail traction system, which thanks to a trio of Poland and Germany based researchers have been found to play a range of nasty tricks. They’ll return bogus error codes after a set date which would presumably be reset by the official service, if the train has been laid up for a while, or even if they are detected via GPS to have visited a third-party workshop. Their work will be the subject of a talk at 37C3 which should be worth watching out for.
It will be especially interesting to juxtapose the reaction to this revelation with cases such as the Deere tractors, because of course Poland is part of the European Union. We’re not specialist EU competition lawyers, but we know enough to know that the EU takes a dim view of these types of practices and has been strong on the right to repair. Who knows, Polish trains may contribute further to the rights of all Europeans.