Carmakers Still Trying To Use DMCA To Stop Car Mods

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Honestly, I think it is insane that automakers are still trying to pull this crap. It's pretty funny that the Automaker’s Alliance even took the time to respond to this article.

But if I buy a car, I should always be free to fix or modify that car, even if it’s a terrible idea that gets me 20 HP and 11 MPG. It doesn’t matter — it’s my car. Besides, how would this be enforced, anyway? If you were pulled over, could a cop plug into your OBD port and read some checksum or something to see if the car has been modified?
 

sfsuphysics

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Could just do like Toyota did with it's early black boxes, which was encrypted and required a password from a VP executive of Toyota just to access the data.
 

splattered

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My nearly antique vehicle doesn't have some fancy computer chip I can reprogram. I can only make it faster by taking out the furniture, adding on or changing some old-school bolt on parts, and increasing displacement. Newfangled generation and their computer powered cars. Bah.


Good article.
 

Ashbringer

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Don't the DSM guys just replace the PCM all together? One that's totally programmable instead of dicking with what comes with the car? DSM is old but I imagine a lot of car modders do the same with even newer cars.
 

rotarymotor

Weaksauce
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I don't see the problem here?

Any real modder/car enthusiast guts the old tuning system and replaces it with a tried and true independent ECU tuning solution. Some examples include:

eCtune
Microtech
Haltech
MoTeC
Megasquirt
Hondata
Cobb Tuning

The list goes on, and you can Google each one for reference to see they are independent tuning solutions for a broad range of cars, albeit mostly imports (its what I work on the most). I can't speak much for the domestic market.
 

Tak Ne

[H]ard|Gawd
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I think we can all agree that america is full of stupid.

I dont think they're trying to be stupid just greedy. They want authorized garages to do all mods and repairs as it makes parts and being 'authorized' much more valuable.
 
Joined
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I think we can all agree that america is full of stupid.

No, but the DMCA was inked with a lovingly hand-crafted pen made of pure 69 carat lobbying that was filed with concentrated oil of corruption and written on silken sheets of pressed campaign "donations".

On its surface the DMCA was all about streamlining the IP control process with take-down notices and reassure companies developing new technology that it wouldn't be stolen as soon as they released it. In truth it was built from the ground up for the purpose of being abused by companies that could afford to lobby.

There's nothing stupid about a creation that is doing its job perfectly.
 

Brian_B

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I can understand the car makers worry - liability in the event something drastic goes wrong - like you accidentally disable your air bags with your mod, or somehow the cruise control gets stuck on or something, and someone dies in a wreck (just some examples). Also, how would that affect recalls, particularly if something electronic in the programming were part of the recall.

Automakers face a lot of liability that something like a computer or phone manufacturer doesn't face.

I think you should be able to mod your property (car included) however you wish without threat of legal action against you - but the flip side of that is also true - if you mod it, then the manufacturer is no longer liable for possible problems (I would even go so far as to say those unrelated to the mod) and isn't under any obligation to continue support.
 

Jagger100

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I think we can all agree that america is full of stupid.
America is full of lawyers and judges who see a [usually] out of state deep pocket corporations to rape for the thinnest of excuses. Actively prohibiting modification gives them half a leg to stand on in court with Billy Bob's gas heater he spliced into the fuel line burns down the car with him inside.
 

nutzo

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There's also the EPA problem.
In many states (especially like California) almost any mod will cause you to fail the smog check.
The last thing car makers want to see is an investigation on why so many of their cars are failing the smog check. Easier for them to just make it difficult to reprogram the chip so people will leave it alone.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I no longer have any desire to mess with my cars. To much hassle for too little gain as most newer cars are fast enough. I'd rather have something reliable so I don't have to spend my weekends messing under the hood.
 

MirekCz

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Sorry to say, but in here they have a point.

Most new cars have got many advanced systems. From something as basic as ABS (which you can turn on/off... ) to advanced functionality like automatic breaking when collision will occur - and as time goes only more funky things will come (like automatic steering and driveless cars).

It's easy to see that if you modify one ECU and it sends an improper CAN message you might be getting into a lot of trouble. Turning on automatic breaking going 70mph? That would be a nasty accident with a truck going behind you...

Who would be responsible for such a crash? If it goes onto automotive company they could lose milions of dollars over each accident and it would be hard to prove it wasn't their fault if the car is just a piece of broken metal and electronic systems are completely destroyed. Even if they could gain access and readout the electronics it would be a long and costly way to prove innocence, but their brand image would be damaged anyway.

It's ok to change some software in your smartphone etc., but if you modify a 2000kg vehicle going at high speeds there's a lot of responsibility to take in case of accident...
 

Conker

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No one is really free in this country. Maybe 200 years ago you had a sense of freedom out in the open wild but now in days the government can see you from satellites. When something is bought it is really just rented in the eyes of the corporations. No one owns anything. It's all an illusion. Kinda like the Matrix ;)
 

Grahamkracka

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Joe Schmo has no business fucking around with computer code that can introduce safety problems in a 3000lb hunk of metal that rolls around at 70MPH.
 

Ramses

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China called and said if someone has a dollar or three, they will find you a way to program/build/copy whatever you want.
 

Grahamkracka

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China called and said if someone has a dollar or three, they will find you a way to program/build/copy whatever you want.

...and give you a product that's only worth 3 cents. China's ability to actually do technical shit that works is vastly overstated. They still can't even properly clone a 40 year old US military jet engine despite trying to do so for at least 20 years. Their main advantage is unlimited cheap labor, which is starting to (slowly) decline as more of the population gets a taste of first world living.
 

Business6

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There's also the EPA problem.
In many states (especially like California) almost any mod will cause you to fail the smog check.
The last thing car makers want to see is an investigation on why so many of their cars are failing the smog check. Easier for them to just make it difficult to reprogram the chip so people will leave it alone.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I no longer have any desire to mess with my cars. To much hassle for too little gain as most newer cars are fast enough. I'd rather have something reliable so I don't have to spend my weekends messing under the hood.

No one is going to launch an investigation for that reason unless it's unmodified vehicles that fail.

Personally, I'd rather put money towards tires (you know, the shit that really matters) and suspension bits and hit the twisties rather than any go-fast bits.
 

MirekCz

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No one is going to launch an investigation for that reason unless it's unmodified vehicles that fail.

Problem is... how do you know if it was modified?

If you exchange engine or some other mechanical parts it's quite easy to spot.
If you overwrite a piece of software on one of many ECUs in your car it might be really problematic (assuming it is still more or less in one piece) or practically impossible (if chip broke into pieces)
 

xXaNaXx

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If it goes onto automotive company they could lose milions of dollars over each accident and it would be hard to prove it wasn't their fault if the car is just a piece of broken metal and electronic systems are completely destroyed. Even if they could gain access and readout the electronics it would be a long and costly way to prove innocence, but their brand image would be damaged anyway.

It's ok to change some software in your smartphone etc., but if you modify a 2000kg vehicle going at high speeds there's a lot of responsibility to take in case of accident...

seriously? completely destroyed ECU? you're joking, right? have you ever even seen the ECU in a vehicle?

if an ECU is completely destroyed to the point that it can't be recovered, there's a whole hell of a lot more going on than just some electronic tinkering. those things are intentionally designed to be durable, it's not like some little plastic box with a circuit board in it.

and it would not be difficult (or costly) for anyone to find out whether or not it had been modified. you just connect the right wires to the OBD port to a diagnostic machine, provide power to the ECU, and you're in business. it's not rocket surgery here. i'd bet that anyone with the vehicle's wiring schematic and a copy of some software to read the ECU could do it on a 10-year-old laptop.
 

Dead Parrot

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How long before this same argument is made on home automation stuff? "You can't be allowed to fix your smart network attached toaster! It might send a bad signal to the furnace and kill you."
 

Ashbringer

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What could possibly go wrong? I mean it's not like I'm going to mod my car to attach it to a giant robot and destroy the DMV. What would give you an idea like that?

DMV.jpg


Don't even get me started on the missiles mod.

QLATIIA.gif
 

MartinX

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Conflicted. On the one hand, modding your own car should absolutely be allowed.

On the other, if/when a modded car explodes and takes out a busload of orphans, the original car maker is still going to get sued to high heavens (including by the modders next of kin, because obviously).

My feeling is, as other said, it's purely a liability thing, they probably don't give a crap whether people mod their cars or not, but when they get sued they need to be able to say in court "We took all reasonable steps to make our cars as safe as possible".
 
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Messages
783
As a parts and service manager, and a mechanic, I still believe it should be legal for the owner to mod their vehicle.
I usually discourage it to my customers for many reasons, including:
If your mod causes damage or related damage to the vehicle, warranty will not cover it.
It makes it difficult for us to diagnose electrical concerns because how certain sensor and device functions have changed.
It can simply cause the vehicle to not function correctly.
Parts catalog may not mach up with what you have changed making it more difficult to get a simple issue repaired.
It can (in some extreme cases) keep the vehicle from passing state inspections, if your state requires an inspection.
With all that being said. I believe it is your car. If you want to mod it for what ever reason, that is your choice. It is also my choice not to work on it if I am not comfortable with the mods. I have turned people away because I did not want to deal with the liability or loss of time and money dealing with figuring out what kind of modifications were performed.
 

Ashbringer

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My feeling is, as other said, it's purely a liability thing, they probably don't give a crap whether people mod their cars or not, but when they get sued they need to be able to say in court "We took all reasonable steps to make our cars as safe as possible".

That's stupid because aftermarket parts. Anyone who's ever had to repair their own car will tell you that the repair is only as good as the part you use. The mechanic in question is also largely to blame. Knew a women who took her car to a mechanic and left with a lot of noise in her right rear brake. I'm no mechanic but I looked at it and the brake pad was missing. Brake pads don't fall off cars. The mechanic clearly removed the pad to force her to service her brakes.

Then there's aftermarket parts which for the most part are never as good as OEM. Usually never as good. There are exceptions. For example I bought Gabriel shocks for my Jeep and after 1 year one was completely frozen and the other was freely moving. That's not very safe but I bought the shocks cause they were cheap. Never again will I buy Gabriel shocks.

Of all the fuckery that goes on in cars the automakers are worried about mods? Far less people mod their cars then people get them repaired. So many mechanics I've ran into that either don't know what they're doing or break things intentional. I've dealt with both and that got me to buy some basic tools at Harbor Freight and fix my cars myself. What about the flood of aftermarket parts that don't meet their standards? Shops use whatever warehouse they're affiliated with and usually the parts are the cheapest junk.

The reason they want to prevent mods is to get people to buy new cars. Cause mods usually improve the car both in power and MPG. You can make a 1995 car feel like a 2015 car with the right mods. The best mods are the ones where you simply take parts from newer cars and bolt them on older cars. Usually finding parts from junkyards from people who smashed them.
 

RazorWind

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Don't the DSM guys just replace the PCM all together? One that's totally programmable instead of dicking with what comes with the car? DSM is old but I imagine a lot of car modders do the same with even newer cars.

New cars are so tightly integrated that you really can't do this anymore. The ECU/DME/PCM has to communicate with several other controllers over the car's internal network via a specific protocol, which means that if you swap it out, your replacement has to communicate via that same protocol with all the other controllers, and the software that makes the protocol work is also subject to copyright.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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I can't help but wonder what their motivation is here.

Is it to stop warranty claims by people who modified (and broke) their cars?
 

dandragonrage

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Messages
8,298
Conflicted. On the one hand, modding your own car should absolutely be allowed.

On the other, if/when a modded car explodes and takes out a busload of orphans, the original car maker is still going to get sued to high heavens (including by the modders next of kin, because obviously).

My feeling is, as other said, it's purely a liability thing, they probably don't give a crap whether people mod their cars or not, but when they get sued they need to be able to say in court "We took all reasonable steps to make our cars as safe as possible".

We need to fix the liability problem in this country. I'm sick and tired of people trying to justify really fucking stupid laws because of liability. GET RID OF THE LIABILITY ITSELF when it doesn't make sense.

We need to be able to mod cars and we will continue to do so regardless of what the law says about it. But it is perfectly reasonable AND NECESSARY to shield automakers from liability lawsuits when they did nothing wrong. This is true with modified vehicles and it's true for older vehicles in disrepair because of an irresponsible owner that doesn't do maintenance.
 

Brian_B

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Problem is... how do you know if it was modified?

If you exchange engine or some other mechanical parts it's quite easy to spot.
If you overwrite a piece of software on one of many ECUs in your car it might be really problematic (assuming it is still more or less in one piece) or practically impossible (if chip broke into pieces)

If it's still in one piece - it's just a matter of looking at the code in the firmware. A quick checksum against the factory installed code would spot modifications.

ECUs are pretty hardy pieces of electronics, like you say, and if they survive you just hook 'em back up to +12VDC and see what's on it.
 

Brian_B

2[H]4U
Joined
Mar 23, 2012
Messages
3,356
As a parts and service manager, and a mechanic, I still believe it should be legal for the owner to mod their vehicle.
I usually discourage it to my customers for many reasons, including:
If your mod causes damage or related damage to the vehicle, warranty will not cover it.
It makes it difficult for us to diagnose electrical concerns because how certain sensor and device functions have changed.
It can simply cause the vehicle to not function correctly.
Parts catalog may not mach up with what you have changed making it more difficult to get a simple issue repaired.
It can (in some extreme cases) keep the vehicle from passing state inspections, if your state requires an inspection.
With all that being said. I believe it is your car. If you want to mod it for what ever reason, that is your choice. It is also my choice not to work on it if I am not comfortable with the mods. I have turned people away because I did not want to deal with the liability or loss of time and money dealing with figuring out what kind of modifications were performed.

I agree 100% with everything you say here.
 

nealric

Weaksauce
Joined
Apr 14, 2009
Messages
109
I don't see the problem here?

Any real modder/car enthusiast guts the old tuning system and replaces it with a tried and true independent ECU tuning solution. Some examples include:

eCtune
Microtech
Haltech
MoTeC
Megasquirt
Hondata
Cobb Tuning

The list goes on, and you can Google each one for reference to see they are independent tuning solutions for a broad range of cars, albeit mostly imports (its what I work on the most). I can't speak much for the domestic market.

The problem is that stand-alone ECU solutions are difficult to implement on late model cars because modern ECUs control non-drivetrain related functions as well as drivetrain related functions. It's one thing to adjust fuel curves, but nobody wants to try to reverse engineer the HVAC system or airbag coding.

Also, there is much less need for a stand-alone ECU replacement in modern cars because modern ECUs are very capable of being reprogrammed with whatever parameters you want. I run a Megasquirt 3 on my classic Alfa Romeo, but I would never mess with a stand-alone on my modern VW as a software flash did everything I needed.
 

Ramses

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The problem is that stand-alone ECU solutions are difficult to implement on late model cars because modern ECUs control non-drivetrain related functions as well as drivetrain related functions. It's one thing to adjust fuel curves, but nobody wants to try to reverse engineer the HVAC system or airbag coding.

Also, there is much less need for a stand-alone ECU replacement in modern cars because modern ECUs are very capable of being reprogrammed with whatever parameters you want. I run a Megasquirt 3 on my classic Alfa Romeo, but I would never mess with a stand-alone on my modern VW as a software flash did everything I needed.

I think the issue is they want to remove the ability to flash/modify the software running on the stock systems.

One solution, if a bit extreme, is to leave the factory stuff in place to run the other systems and use an aftermarket solution for engine/trans control. Easier said than done and no doubt flat out not possible in some cases, but it has been done and may well be an option.

A better solution, which one ought not to hold ones breath for, is to NOT integrate the damn things they way they are. Sharing data is one thing, integrated code is another. Your HVAC and airbag system for example really don't *need* to be totally dependent on your engine management system. It needs some data, sure, but there are other ways of doing it.
But don't wish upon that star too hard.

If this happens no doubt it will cut down on casual flashers and tuners, but it will no more stop the dedicated than it has stopped pirated music movies and software. Just makes life a little more annoying and expensive, which seems to more often than not be a synonym of progress. Thankfully the world is still full of cool "old" cars for the time being. Hopefully it'll last the rest of my lifetime at least. I feel bad for future generations that aren't going to enjoy things the way I have though. I'm sure they will have something, but things are changing in the automotive hobby world and not especially for the good imo.
 

Business6

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Messages
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Problem is... how do you know if it was modified?

If you exchange engine or some other mechanical parts it's quite easy to spot.
If you overwrite a piece of software on one of many ECUs in your car it might be really problematic (assuming it is still more or less in one piece) or practically impossible (if chip broke into pieces)

Pretty easy. If a problem exists from a software flash that x consumer bought from y aftermarket company for z car, then y would certainly get shit from it as x finds out how expensive it will be to repair it on z. It's a simple trail to follow and the car modding community, despite what it may appear to be, is far, far smaller than the pool of people who don't modify their cars. Fish in a barrel with how information is stored on both the internet and new cars. I've been on car forums for a long time and it's amazing to see how these things take off, good or bad for the person(s) involved.

I, for one, am incredibly glad I can still get a Megasquirt for my car and modify it as I see fit. If these assbags are going to suck the enthusiasm out of the only people who seem to give a shit about driving anymore, that's fine, they'll never get money from me again (not that they have for a long time.) No one knows how to shoot themselves in the foot better than the music or auto industries.
 

xXaNaXx

Gawd
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Messages
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That's stupid because aftermarket parts. Anyone who's ever had to repair their own car will tell you that the repair is only as good as the part you use. The mechanic in question is also largely to blame. Knew a women who took her car to a mechanic and left with a lot of noise in her right rear brake. I'm no mechanic but I looked at it and the brake pad was missing. Brake pads don't fall off cars. The mechanic clearly removed the pad to force her to service her brakes.

Then there's aftermarket parts which for the most part are never as good as OEM. Usually never as good. There are exceptions. For example I bought Gabriel shocks for my Jeep and after 1 year one was completely frozen and the other was freely moving. That's not very safe but I bought the shocks cause they were cheap. Never again will I buy Gabriel shocks.

Of all the fuckery that goes on in cars the automakers are worried about mods? Far less people mod their cars then people get them repaired. So many mechanics I've ran into that either don't know what they're doing or break things intentional. I've dealt with both and that got me to buy some basic tools at Harbor Freight and fix my cars myself. What about the flood of aftermarket parts that don't meet their standards? Shops use whatever warehouse they're affiliated with and usually the parts are the cheapest junk.

The reason they want to prevent mods is to get people to buy new cars. Cause mods usually improve the car both in power and MPG. You can make a 1995 car feel like a 2015 car with the right mods. The best mods are the ones where you simply take parts from newer cars and bolt them on older cars. Usually finding parts from junkyards from people who smashed them.

you're completely bypassing the idea behind the article.

they're not worried about you swapping your alternator with a non-OEM one, or changing your brake pads for non-OEM brake pads. they're trying to stop people from tampering with the ECM (the car's computer), which tells all the parts which have sensors on them how to operate, like air-to-fuel ratio, antilock brakes, etc.
 

paret0

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you're completely bypassing the idea behind the article.

they're not worried about you swapping your alternator with a non-OEM one, or changing your brake pads for non-OEM brake pads. they're trying to stop people from tampering with the ECM (the car's computer), which tells all the parts which have sensors on them how to operate, like air-to-fuel ratio, antilock brakes, etc.

1. ABS is typically a different computer, a different and independent system entirely (ABS module and sensors) from a flashable Powertrain Control Module (PCM).

2. The stoichiometric fuel/air ratio for gasoline engines is already governed by physics. Any digression from ~14.7:1 results in a vehicle much less likely to get away from you leaving a stop light.
 

lcpiper

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Messages
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I can understand the car makers worry - liability in the event something drastic goes wrong - like you accidentally disable your air bags with your mod, or somehow the cruise control gets stuck on or something, and someone dies in a wreck (just some examples). Also, how would that affect recalls, particularly if something electronic in the programming were part of the recall.

Automakers face a lot of liability that something like a computer or phone manufacturer doesn't face.

I think you should be able to mod your property (car included) however you wish without threat of legal action against you - but the flip side of that is also true - if you mod it, then the manufacturer is no longer liable for possible problems (I would even go so far as to say those unrelated to the mod) and isn't under any obligation to continue support.


No, actually this makes it easier. If something happens and a manufacturer get's sued, modded software just makes it easier to dodge responsibility, this is a Benny for the makers, not a liability.

As far as recalls go, so what, they should be re-flashing and ensuring updated software is in place when given this opportunity. If the ECU isn't factory original all they should have to do is skip that and move on.
 

Ashbringer

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you're completely bypassing the idea behind the article.

they're not worried about you swapping your alternator with a non-OEM one, or changing your brake pads for non-OEM brake pads. they're trying to stop people from tampering with the ECM (the car's computer), which tells all the parts which have sensors on them how to operate, like air-to-fuel ratio, antilock brakes, etc.

But for the reason of safety right? To make sure the fly-by-wire throttle body doesn't accidentally go off and America suddenly blames Toyota for it? What's the difference between a Chinese made knock off sensor that randomly goes faulty and commands the ECU to suddenly accelerate instead of someone messing with the software in the ECU that also randomly accelerates the car? None!

It's bullshit, especially when OBDII is no longer applicable for repairing cars anymore. Now we're worried about software patents for consumer safety? Car makers have their priorities in the wrong place.
 

Dirty Butler

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As someone who has worked with SCT's Pro Racer software, you guys are giving way too much credit to what the ECM on a car can do. About the only "safety" device I could touch on the car was the traction control, which on my year of mustang was a joke anyway, and Ford lets you shut it off with a switch on the dash. Almost everything in the computer is for engine management. The worst thing you could do is lean the thing way out and burn a piston, BUT you'd really have to mess with the fuel maps and buy a pretty expensive piece of software and hardware to get that into it.
 
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