Scott Conway

Information Security Researcher

Kia Niro Modifications

I recently bought a new car - a 2022 Kia Niro Hybrid. Of course, one of the first things to do with a new vehicle is to change everything you dislike about it. Here’s the list of complaints that I have with it, and what I’ve managed to change so far.

Virtual Speaker (VESS) sound is way too loud (and beeps in reverse gear!)

I’ve driven hybrids before, so I was expecting an annoying speaker, but this one is a bit much. The reverse beep is way too over-the-top, especially when there’s no user-facing way to ever disable it.

It took some digging online, but I found that people took one of these approaches to “solve” the problem:

I haven’t found a way to simply make the VESS more quiet, or to disable the beeping while in reverse gear. That’s because the VESS is not just a speaker, but a speaker that’s connected to the CAN bus! As shown in this video, the VESS simply listens to the current speed and gear of the car, and figures out what sounds to make on its own. If changes to the volume were to be made, it’d be in the VESS ECU’s firmware.

So after deliberating for a bit (and possibly driving with the fuse pulled), I decided that a togglable VESS is better than one that’s removed entirely. The VESS is there for a reason, after all.

The best guide I found on making a VESS toggle was from InsideEVForums, archived here. It was pretty easy to follow the outlined instructions and end up with a functional VESS toggle. Note that on the 2022 HEV, the “gap” in the trim panel buttons shown in the above link is replaced with a “12V Battery Reset” button. Nonetheless, the wire colors for the VESS toggle button are the same.

If you’re considering disabling your VESS, I urge you to go with a togglable method for the sake of pedestrian safety.

ps. It’s evident that the VESS toggle button is simply sending a CAN bus message to disable/enable the VESS. So with that, you don’t need a button, as long as you can replicate that message. I’ve been fiddling with my comma 3 and cabana to try to figure out where the message is, and I’ll update this post (or make another one) once I find anything definitive. If all goes well, I should be able to toggle the VESS from my comma device, or an ELM-327 with torque pro or an equivalent application.

Disabling Telemetry

In previous cars that I’ve owned, I’ve removed power to the telematics units, and that was it. Some OEMs (Toyota, Subaru) go so far as to put a speaker (typically the passenger front speaker) behind the telematics unit so it can always override the speaker’s output with emergency communications. Without power to the telematics unit, however, you get a dead speaker. A simple fix to that is to just jump the wires from audio in to audio out on the telematics harness. However, Kia doesn’t have a discrete telematics unit. People have successfully removed the LTE modem daughter card from the head unit (as shown here), but I didn’t want to start ripping apart the dash if I didn’t need to. In one of the car’s many “Engineering Menus”, there’s a toggle to wholly disable UVO. This is present so that the vehicle can be sold in Massachusetts. Question is, can you trust it? Probably not, but it’s good enough for me.

I’d like to include a link to a source detailing how to enter “Engineering Mode” in the vehicle, but I’ve found many conflicting ways to do so, that appear to be model-specific. I’ll leave that research as an exercise for you.

Other Modifications

As alluded to above, I’ve installed a Comma 3 ADAS system.

Air horn - enough said.

I’ve also made the car quite comfortable for camping. Since it has a sunroof, I constructed a sunroof vent (more or less) as shown in this video. Naturally, it’s paired with reflectix window covers.

Future Modifications

Annoying Start Up / Shutdown Sounds

On entering/exiting “Ignition”, the car makes decently loud startup/shutdown sounds. During shutdown, audio from the head unit will continue to play until the driver’s door has been opened, leading to some distasteful mixing of the audio streams. From research online, I’m not the only person that’s a critic of this “design choice”. There aren’t any togglable settings for it (in Engineering Mode or otherwise), and it appears to be sent similarly to warning sounds (door ajar, seatbelt unbuckled, etc.). I don’t have a subscription to Kia’s Global Information System, but when I eventually get one, I’ll take a look at the responsible wiring diagrams.

Toggling the DRLs

According to the owner’s manual, the DRLs will only turn off in select circumstances:

Perhaps there’s a circumstance where you’d like to have the DRLs off without any of those events met (inconspicuous night driving, for example). How can we disable them? Some “inventive” people online recommended physically obscuring the lights, which would work I guess. But we can do better than that. Back to the comma 3 and cabana. hyundai_kia_generic.dbc has references to a number of DRL-related values. Next steps - toggle the DRLs through any of the aforementioned settings and see what cabana has to say about it. The end goal would be able to toggle the DRLs by sending a message from the comma 3.


I can’t find a reason to link to this website in any of the above topics, but it’s tangentially related. I found this in my research of methods to disable/quiet the VESS. It’s a wealth of information, both car-related and otherwise.