Kit Walsh, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the group believed that researchers and car owners needed access to vehicle software not only to make repairs or to adjust a car’s performance, but also to improve security. To demonstrate security vulnerabilities in automotive software, two security experts, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, recently performed an experiment in which they remotely hacked into a Jeep Cherokee and took control from the driver.
Mr. Walsh said many companies that make auto components supported the changes to the law. One such company, Derive Systems of Sanford, Fla., reprograms engine computers in ways that it says improve fuel efficiency while reducing emissions.
The E.P.A. also warned that the exemption could result in more pollution. “Based on the information E.P.A. has obtained in the context of enforcement activities, the majority of modifications to engine software are being performed to increase power and/or boost fuel economy,” the agency said in a letter to the Copyright Office opposing the change. “These kinds of modifications will often increase emissions.”