New cybersecurity measures are blocking aftermarket tuners from accessing car systems.

Why is it important: Automakers have taken advantage of living in a connected world, with real-time data transfer and over-the-air updates becoming the standard for today’s new cars. But with every network connection, cybercriminals can exploit a security vulnerability. As automakers respond to these evolving threats, aftermarket enthusiasts are slowly losing the ability to modify OEM equipment.

Ford Mustang aftermarket enthusiasts may soon find it harder to make performance changes to their vehicles thanks to Ford’s new technology. fully connected vehicle (FNV) architecture. The electrical architecture that allows the automaker to deliver updates over the air (OTA) will likely also encrypt the car’s electronic control unit (ECU) in a way that makes previous modification methods ineffective.

An advanced encryption standard is a necessary response to the ever-evolving threat posed by hackers looking for new ways to access vehicle control systems, driver information records, or communication and location systems. Unfortunately, encryption also affects the possibilities of the existing secondary market. flash and piggyback tuners to successfully amplify the input and output signals of the factory ECU.

According to Mustang’s chief engineer Ed Krenz, the Ford FNV architecture is capable of detecting when the user attempts to change any of the vehicle’s programmed signals or coded instructions. Once detected, FNV will take actions ranging from disabling the specific system being modified to completely disabling the vehicle.

Aftermarket tuners and performance enthusiasts have traditionally relied on modifying these signals to maximize the performance of upgraded engine, transmission and brake components. The inability to change these signals limits the potential effectiveness of future engine and transmission component upgrades. No matter how advanced the installed parts may be, drivers will likely never reach the full potential of their upgrades without the ability to modify the specific signal and inputs required to make them work.

Ford has said it is open to working with third-party tuners to provide the access needed to tune and calibrate retrofitted vehicles. While this may bode well for larger and more established Ford employees such as Roush Performance and Shelby Performance Centerthis can make research, development, and sales much more expensive (or even unattainable) for smaller, more specialized aftermarket shops that lack the same brand awareness and financial backing.

Automotive technology will continue to get faster, more complex and provide more ways to interact with the outside world. And the problem of increased security not exclusive to Ford alone. There is no doubt that the aftermarket industry will evolve and adapt to these changes as it has always done, but the increasing levels of complexity and effort required could seriously change the aftermarket performance landscape.

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