There’s been a lot of internet swirl about our original report regarding the 2020 C8 Corvette ECU. At no point did Muscle Cars & Trucks mention that the vehicle’s Engine Control Unit is un-hackable, as that outcome is left up to the hackers to figure out.
To reiterate: what it is actually, is the most formidable example of ECU/ECM cybersecurity that tuning companies have yet to see from the automaker, and GM President Mark Reuss gave us some insight as to why that’s the case.
“We are going to do everything we can to protect our customers from a cybersecurity standpoint,” said Reuss. “Global B I think is going to be the standard of the industry in terms of the encrypted messaging that travels on our bus between modules. There’s a clean side and dirty side to that.”
Global B is GM’s Battery Electric Vehicle architecture. Not that the 2020 C8 Corvette is going to be electric – there’s definitely audible evidence to the contrary – but the software system appears to be shared.
“(2020 C8 Corvette ECU) is very, very well done in terms of being able to connect,” Ruess continued, “but also to have the capacity and capability for things like Super Cruise, AV and EV. That pipeline that is created with Global B and cybersecurity to be part of that is very, very robust.”
MC&T talked to Mr. Reuss during the official reveal of the 2020 Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V in Detroit. Previous ECU systems did not have this level of security to worry about. There are also various legal hurdles to consider.
The writing of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) sloppily prohibits “access controls” on software. This is otherwise known as digital rights management (DRM). Therefore, car companies can take legal action to those who go after vehicle software systems. Considering the lax approach towards tuning companies thus far, we assume these reservations are left for actions involving driverless technology. The murky water is that even though one can purchase a vehicle, they still don’t own the software in its computers. It’s copyrighted, and therefore, belongs to its manufacturers.
“I don’t wanna cut anybody out from an aftermarket standpoint, but we have to pick and choose who are the good guys,” said Reuss.
GM has been on a tear and has gone to great lengths of spending ($2 billion annually) to lead the charge in autonomous vehicle technology, via Cruise Automation. These cybersecurity measures largely reflect this effort.
For the record, GM never openly lets tuning companies have access to the raw binary of any vehicle ECU/ECM. All hp upgrade efforts have been done on an independent basis by the tuning companies themselves. With that in mind, we can only look at recent tuning endeavors as to the level of difficulty it is to crack a GM ECU/ECM. Here are a few examples:
- The GM L5P Duramax engine ECU/ECM took roughly two years for tuners to crack it. Availability remains limited.
- The LT5 C7 Corvette ZR1 ECU/ECM wasn’t cracked until April 2019, over a year being on the market.
- The T1 GM trucks (2019+ Silverado and 2019+ Sierra) have yet to have their ECU/ECM hacked for power upgrades, as far as we know. Even renown tuners such as Lingenfelter and Hennessey haven’t offered ECU-based upgrades.
Considering the popularity of full-size pickup trucks and true body-on-frame SUVs in North America, these barriers could defer potential customers from GM that wish to buy a truck with the intent to upgrade it. It also denies tuning companies the opportunity to do so.
The 2020 C8 Corvette ECU cybersecurity is likely to continue this pattern, but to a heightened level. In other words, if one wants a 1,000 horsepower Corvette courtesy of the aftermarket, they’re better off getting a C7. To that end, there are plenty of them looking for owners these days. Same thing goes if they want a manual transmission. Because in case you haven’t heard, the mid-engine Corvette isn’t getting a clutch pedal when it launches.
As we have previously reported, encrypted Engine Control Units/Engine Control Modules are not new to the automotive industry at this point in time, but they are surely becoming more and more robust, with more and more security considerations manifesting year after year, if not month after month. The C8 Corvette ECU will be the latest industry hurdle for tuning companies to jump over.
The limited resources of tuning companies have so far impressed us with being able to circumvent the fortifications laid out by OEM titans. Yet the fact remains that odds are being increasingly stacked against their favor. The storyline is set, and there’s bound to be fortune for whomever can be the first to tune the mid-engine Corvette.
All of this isn’t to spell doom and gloom for the 2020 C8 Corvette. The first-ever mid-engine Corvette is likely to break barriers, and set records, when it debuts on July 18, 2019. It’s easily the most anticipated vehicle from Chevrolet in decades, and will introduce dozens of first-ever features to the Corvette marque. Its mid-engine design is sure to pay huge dividends in terms of performance and curb appeal, and we expect long waiting lists to get one when the performance car finally debuts.