ECU encryption is important in a wireless world, but Chevy understands enthusiasts.
There has been much gnashing of teeth and internet wailing since we found out that engineers for the new 2020 C8 Corvette have worked to make the car completely untunable in the name of making it un-hackable. In a world of connect-ability in vehicles and the emerging trend towards over-the-air updates on car computer systems, there is sound reasoning for this. Leaving doors open on computerized systems for hackers with evil intentions is a bad idea, particularly with varying levels of automation on the table. However, the Corvette is an enthusiast car, and many owners want to unlock more performance outside of bolt-on accessories.
In an interview with Road and Track, Russ O'Blenes, director of Performance Variants, Parts & Motorsports, acknowledged that GM understands enthusiast's wants and needs. "We're investigating our next steps in the calibration space… we're looking at how we're going to manage that right now," he says, and that safety is GM's "number one priority." However, he also says that: "[We] need to figure out how we can manage through to make sure that we don't leave out our performance customers that want to make modifications." Hopefully, that means there could be a compromise or complete solution being discussed.
He also points out GM isn't the only company having to deal with cybersecurity and access to its engine management systems. Over time, it's something that is likely to put a significant dent in the aftermarket industry, and not just for sports cars. GM truck owners are already finding themselves locked out of power gains from ECUs, and even the more well-known tuning companies haven't been able to offer power upgrades. What we appreciate here is that GM is acknowledging the issue from an enthusiast's perspective, and hopefully won't be using it purely as a way of making sure the only path to upgrade is through the dealerships.