Volkswagen Software Cheated Emissions Test: EPA - InformationWeek

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9/19/2015
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Volkswagen Software Cheated Emissions Test: EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board claim VW deliberately programmed almost 500,000 diesel cars to emit fewer pollutants under test conditions than during actual use.

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The US Environmental Protection Agency on Friday charged Volkswagen with deliberately employing software designed to bypass emission standards in almost half a million cars and ordered the company to fix its non-compliant vehicles.

The EPA issued a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen AG and its subsidiaries, Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America. The NOV claims that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 used a "defeat device" that regulates emissions only during emissions testing.

According to tests conducted by the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), affected vehicles emit as much as 40 times more pollution than allowed by emission standards.

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"VW is cooperating with the investigation; we are unable to comment further at this time," Volkswagen said in an emailed statement.

In a blog post, environmental advocacy group Clean Air Watch said the EPA's charges are "truly appalling."

(Image: Volkswagen)

(Image: Volkswagen)

The CARB, in a separately issued compliance violation letter, stated that Volkswagen officials acknowledged the deception was deliberate. "During a meeting on September 3, 2015, VW admitted to CARB and EPA staff that these vehicles were designed and manufactured with a defeat device to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative elements of the vehicles' emission control system," the letter said.

The EPA in its NOV alleged, "...VW manufactured and installed software in the electronic control module (ECM) of these vehicles that sensed when the vehicle was being tested for compliance with EPA emissions standards."

During tests, the software produced compliant emissions results. But on the road, the software allowed NOx emissions ranging from 10 to 40 times higher than EPA limits, depending whether the vehicle was driving in a city setting or on a highway.

The issue came to light in May 2014 when West Virginia University's Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions conducted a study commissioned by International Council on Clean Transportation. WVU tested a 2012 VW Jetta and a 2013 VW Passat. The emissions data found by WVU researchers differed from that reported by VW.

After a voluntary recall in December 2014 showed only minor improvement, CARB broadened its testing to understand the results it was getting. According to the EPA, it was only after CARB and the EPA refused approve VW's 2016 diesel vehicles that the carmaker admitted it had installed a bypass device.

The following VW and Audi model years are affected: Jetta (2009–2015), Beetle (2009–2015), Audi A3 (2009–2015), Golf (2009–2015), and Passat (MY 2014-2015). VW is required to cover the cost of compliance. The company has not issued a recall notice. In its statement, the company said owners of affected cars do not need to take any action at this time. 

VW faces fines of up to $37,500 per vehicle, or more than $18 billion for 482,000 affected vehicles, as well as additional fines. The EPA has not yet specified the total penalty it will seek.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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trulyurs22
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trulyurs22,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/19/2015 | 1:55:40 PM
IF Volkswagen can do it ...
This article is discerning, to say the least. If Volkswagen can invent and install a bypass devise to allow their manufactured cars to pass emissions testing, who else can do this and possibly get away with it? I hope penalties are steep and 1st offense made to be the last accepted before the company is no longer allowed to sell their cars in the U.S. America is fighting hard to be economical in its fuel usage as well as stopping the pollutants that are adding to its severe climate change conditions from coast to coast. Finding an industry would take action to violate such environmental laws and perhaps find the penalty worth the costs in some cases by the number of car sales, as many companies in the US that are slapped with violations of EPA laws do, is very frustrating. The fact too that this is a foreign car manufacturer who is taking jobs from the US car industry in being allowed to sell and repair their cars here, as well as profits which the US industries would instead be making should warrant stricter penalties against them.
JarvisF811
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JarvisF811,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/19/2015 | 2:27:57 PM
Emissions testing = benchmarking for cars
...and as anyone in software knows, there are three kinds of lies:

There are

1) Lies

2) DAMN lies

3) Benchmarks

:-)
fasteddie42
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fasteddie42,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/19/2015 | 7:15:50 PM
Re: IF Volkswagen can do it ...
The actual cheat is probably pretty easy. Here in California, all ICE cars go on a roller dyno to sniff the exhaust. A cheat system that recognizes that the wheels are turning, but the car is not moving (from the vehicle stability system) could set all control parameters to "clean" during the test. Simple. The emissions test does not care about performance or fuel economy, only emissions.

Obviously, this "let's cheat" strategy had legs fairly high up in the organization. The cheat spans two car divisions of VW, suggesting collusion at the executive engineering level. Let's let it play out....but this answers the question many have asked, "How is VW able to meet EPA requirements with so simple a system when others cannot?!" I strongly suspect that Mazda - I believe they gave up on their diesel for the US - and others have fed suggestions to the EPA on this matter.

All of this says horrible things about Volkswagen management. Heads must roll. One positive outcome could be a more serious leadership commitment to Zero Emission Vehicles at VW, both to meet future mileage and emissions requirements...and as an act of contrition for this very stupid management decision to cheat. Battery electric, or hydrogen-powered could become a focus for VW as it "gets back to work" in a few months.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
9/19/2015 | 10:01:44 PM
$18 Billion?????
Wow! If we really end up collecting $18 Billion, that's a whole lotta taxes I won't have to pay. Thank you VW!
KenB56701
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KenB56701,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/20/2015 | 4:28:50 PM
They've been dumping, non-epa related, defective cars on unsuspecting customers for years.
Crocodile tears.  They're upset because they got caught.

They've been dumping, non-epa related,  defective cars on unsuspecting customers for years.  Volkswagen of America cyber attacked a website with pictures of their defective cars to destroy the car pictures.  Take a look below.   All the IP evidence of their attacks to destroy the website are there.  Totally illegal,  but they've been getting away with it for years. 

They use their size and the justice system to get away with it, and then cover up their dirty work with billion dollar marketing campaigns.

The website.

www dot vwfraudclassaction dot com
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
9/21/2015 | 6:15:04 AM
Emission testing
"The US Environmental Protection Agency on Friday charged Volkswagen with deliberately employing software designed to bypass emission standards in almost half a million cars and ordered the company to fix its non-compliant vehicles.The EPA issued a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen AG and its subsidiaries, Audi AG and Volkswagen Group of America. The NOV claims that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years  2009-2015 used a "defeat device" that regulates emissions only during emissions testing"

 Thomas, how it's possible? Emission testing is carrying out at certain authorized emission testing centers with the help of external devices. Whatever may be the emission level, it may reflect with the sensing device panels and it cannot bypass any smoke during the emission testing process.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
9/21/2015 | 10:44:03 AM
Comatose EPA Officials
This has been going on since 2009 and they just figured this out?  The preverbal "they" in busines will always try to find a way to get an advantage over the system.  I really don't blame VW for the past 4 years as the governement should have caught this by 2010 at the latest.  Now who else is getting away with pulling the wool over the EPA's eyes.
Shouldbeu2
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Shouldbeu2,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/21/2015 | 10:46:30 AM
Re: Emission testing
Most emissions testing requires the inspector to link the exam equipment to the car obd connector (On Board Diagnostic) to verify the car being tested is the car reported. So in addition to the dyno/emissions mentioned below, it could be pretty obvious to the car the combination of data being requested for emissions testing or simply any odb connection had been made.  Eitherway, must be some pretty interesting code, as the software would likely need to change the expected values for the oxygen sensors in the exhaust, mass airflow sensors, etc.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
9/21/2015 | 10:52:17 AM
Re: IF Volkswagen can do it ...

VW assembles most of their popular vehicles sold in the US (Passat & Jetta) in the US.  VW is actually putting more Americans to work while Detroit continues to put Canadians and Mexicans to work.  In fact in the past five years foreign car manufactures have put more Americans to work (created new jobs) than Detroit.

DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
9/21/2015 | 11:10:14 AM
Re: IF Volkswagen can do it ...
This is what happens when industry people are hired to work in the government or after workig for the government they go work for the industry they regulated.  It's a "club" atmosphere where the assumption is those being regulated are following the rules so not much attention is being paid.  We really need consumers running industry regulations in government not industry insiders.
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