Monday, September 21, 2015

Good Old German Engineering . . .

. . . or maybe software. It was recently revealed that the Volkswagen Company has jiggered the software in a number of it's diesel cars to evade anti-pollution testing, by having the software detect when it was being subjected to emissions inspection, and select a mode that minimized emission, and then switching back to a more powerful, more polluting mode in actual driving.
U.S. and California environmental regulators on Friday accused Volkswagen AG of deliberately circumventing clean air rules on nearly 500,000 diesel cars and the company could face penalties of up to $18 billion.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleged that Volkswagen used software in four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009 to 2015 to circumvent emissions testing of certain air pollutants.

“Put simply, these cars contained software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test,” Cynthia Giles, an enforcement officer at the EPA, told reporters in a teleconference.
The company has "voluntarily" promised to recall the affected vehicles and "repair" them and faces billions in fines. I wonder how many people will refuse to take their car back to VW to have it crippled?

But Jazz Shaw at Hotair thinks what they did, while definitely violating the spirit of the law, may well have been within the letter:
The way most of the regulations are written seems to indicate that the vehicle must have a functional system of this type which is accurately monitoring system performance and meets the maximum emissions requirements at the time of testing. Obviously the VW vehicles in question were doing just that. But cars today have all sorts of bells and whistles which drivers can use to customize their driving experience. They can switch from “performance” mode to “economy” mode with the push of a button. Things like that obviously affect the vehicle’s emissions. Other such options are available. And when you think about it, the “disable device” was really just putting the car into a different mode of operation which includes heavy emissions control. When it was disconnected and ready to head back out on the road it was switching back to a different mode with a bit more performance. None of that changes the fact that the emissions were within the required limits at the time of testing.
Which would confirm my thought that automotive engineers are all teenage hot rodders at heart. Is it worth a billion dollar gamble in court? The words of laws used to matter, but now in the Obama era, only the intentions seem to count.

The other questions that seem germane are how how widely is this practiced within the auto industry, and how did the Feds and California figure it out?
Exit question: how likely is it that the geniuses at VW and Audi were the only ones to dream this up? This sounds like the sort of thing that a group of engineers might assume was never going to be found out because who is going around doing extra testing of vehicle emissions outside of an inspection station? (In fact, I’m still wondering how the EPA caught on to this unless VW had a disgruntled whistle blower among their ranks.) Are the big, American automakers scrambling right now to cover their own code?
Two people can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.

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