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Transportation Earth Government Software

Volkswagen Ordered To Recall 500K Vehicles Over Its Own Malicious Programming 411

Etherwalk writes: The Obama Administration today ordered Volkswagen to recall 500,000 4-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi vehicles from model years 2009-15. The vehicles were programmed to turn on more thorough emissions control and generate cleaner readings when tested for emissions than they did when in ordinary operation. In effect, the software made everything operate normally when you looked at it, just like any good malware.
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Volkswagen Ordered To Recall 500K Vehicles Over Its Own Malicious Programming

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  • Translated: If you have one, don't take it in, unless you want it to run even worse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by leehwtsohg ( 618675 )

      Some people care about the emissions from their car...

      • by ZeroPly ( 881915 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:09PM (#50550495)
        If the car drove well while complying with emissions requirements, it's doubtful that Volkswagen would have risked an obvious legal violation for some marginal performance gains.

        And since they're not going to give you a new engine when you take your car in for recall, it's safe to say that the performance will be reduced when you get it back. For the majority of people, a slight difference in emissions would be preferable to a noticeable drop in performance.
        • For the majority of people, a slight difference in emissions would be preferable to a noticeable drop in performance.

          Because you just can't have enough horsepower. Faster faster faster!

          • You do understand!

          • Because you just can't have enough horsepower. Faster faster faster!

            Dieselheads are as often worried about mpg as they are about power. 1 mpg difference can mean a lot of money when you're towing a trailer 1k miles. And the emissions were often costing 2-3. Means a lot when you were starting at 8.

          • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @03:10PM (#50551109) Journal

            enough horsepower

            I don't understand those words in that order. There cannot be "enough horsepower", there can only be "more horsepower".

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          The last person I knew who bought a VW was told by the dealership that it was normal for a modern gasoline engine to burn a quart of oil every month.

        • For the majority of people, a slight difference in emissions would be preferable to a noticeable drop in performance.

          Exactly why regulation is necessary. The ironic thing about libertarians is that protection of the commons is not necessary, but they are the first to trash the commons if they can get away with it. I'd like to see the political demographics of people who get emissions control bypass mechanisms are, and especially those idiotic coal rollers.

          • I'd like to see the political demographics of people who get emissions control bypass mechanisms are

            Some of them are "ecomodder" types whose idea of "performance" might still be laudable efficiency, albeit prioritizing goals slightly differently than the EPA does.

            For example, as delivered from the factory these 2009+ VW TDIs cannot safely use more than 5% biodiesel. However, with [illegal] modifications to the emissions system they could use 100% biodiesel, which can arguably provide "better" emissions than

        • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @03:13PM (#50551131)

          For the majority of people, a slight difference in emissions would be preferable to a noticeable drop in performance.

          For the majority of individuals, yes. Because you're not *paying* for the harm your emissions do.

      • by flappinbooger ( 574405 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:13PM (#50550535) Homepage

        Some people care about the emissions from their car...

        just like some people like low flow shower heads and low flow toilets.

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by FranTaylor ( 164577 )

          just like some people like low flow shower heads and low flow toilets.

          some of us actually have to pay water bills

          • +1. Nothing trained me to shut off lights I didn't need and to learn to tolerate CFL bulbs like moving out and paying my own electric bill.

            Some of us also actually do make decisions based on a world view, not our own immediate gratification.

            So while folks in drought stricken California may despise short showers from a low flow shower head, many who could easily pay their bills will still cut back even if they can afford high rates because *gasp* they want to contribute to the common good where they reasona

        • by gmack ( 197796 )

          Some people care about the emissions from their car...

          just like some people like low flow shower heads and low flow toilets.

          If they are done right, both are excellent. I have a low flow shower head that puts out plenty of pressure.

          • Returning one that doesn't work properly is substantially more difficult with toilets. I bought one, one of this highest rated for "flushing ability" short of the noisy pressurized type, and after months of flush six times, plunger, flush six more times, give up and fill up a two-gallon bucket to pour in...

            I extended the overflow pipe in the tank and raised the water level an inch. Now, it works fine. And uses less water over all, because it's not six times as much water as before.

        • by dj245 ( 732906 )

          Some people care about the emissions from their car...

          just like some people like low flow shower heads and low flow toilets.

          There's a big problem with this comparison. In some places, water is more expensive than the "essentially free" that many of us enjoy. Low flow fixtures can save measurable amounts of money, just like CFL and LED lighting.

          There is no direct cost for driving a car which is polluting more than it should. In very serious cases (black clouds of smoke) there might be a possible fine but I assume Volkswagen's problem is relatively minor and not visually noticeable.

    • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:12PM (#50550527)

      Driving around with a known polluting car is awful. You are a jerk for suggesting folks just ignore their cars being 40x out of compliance. Diesel particulate emissions are a major contributor to diseases like lung cancer, asthma, etc. Eff you.

      I couldn't easily find if VW is just going to update the software, or what?

      • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

        I don't know, the EPA is using some double-speak:

        "Car owners should know that although these vehicles have emissions exceeding standards, these violations do not present a safety hazard and the cars remain legal to drive and resell. Owners of cars of these models and years do not need to take any action at this time."

        I assume they mean to say that it's not a hazard that will kill the occupants of the vehicle, but only hazardous considering the number of these vehicles on the road, but the way they phrase it

      • by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @03:33PM (#50551275)

        Driving around with a known polluting car is awful. You are a jerk for suggesting folks just ignore their cars being 40x out of compliance. Diesel particulate emissions are a major contributor to diseases like lung cancer, asthma, etc. Eff you.

        I couldn't easily find if VW is just going to update the software, or what?

        No, VW are the jerks. If there ends up being a noticeable negative impact on performance, the only fair thing for VW to do is offer full refunds (including tax, and everything) for those who want it, and take the cars back. Otherwise, how are people jerks for wanting to keep what they paid for? Even compensating people a few hundred dollars isn't enough to make up for being stuck with a multi-thousand-dollar asset you no longer enjoy using.

    • And there was a time when Volkswagen was the "Vehicle of the people"...
      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        I believe Hitler was in charge of Germany in those days.

    • Experts are thinking it has a lot more to do with reducing wear and tear on the very expensive Diesel Particulate Filter (DPS). The majority of states have testing requirements and under the CA 7/70 and Federal 8/80 emissions control warranty rules VW would likely be on the hook to fix any issues.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns ( 17740 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @01:58PM (#50550419)

    Might want to be more specific in the synopsis.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @01:58PM (#50550423) Journal

    So VW incorporated stuff you see advertised in the back of hot-rod mags into the car. Now they'll have to go after those after-market guys, assuming the chips actually do what they say. It's not like anybody even tells state inspectors they swapped out the chips. I'm not sure how much this goes on. I've got a relatively new car and have only had it smogged once since I bought it. No, I don't plan on ever messing with it. I just know that such things exist.

    • So now we'll need an aftermarket "green-rod" chip that makes our cars environmental friendly. And instead of advertising the chip in beefy car magazines they'll advertise them in nature magazines sold at Whole Foods.
  • Color me naive.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nospAm.nerdflat.com> on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:09PM (#50550493) Journal
    ... but how does the software in the car know that the vehicle's emissions are being tested in the first place?
    • by Bugler412 ( 2610815 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:12PM (#50550529)
      Something plugged into and actively reading data from the OBDII port I suppose. Wouldn't be hard to setup
      • It makes me wonder if plugging in something like a Scangauge or VCDS changes the performance too.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Why aren't they, oh.... I don't know.... measuring the actual emissions produced by the vehicle? Sure, it's a harder test to conduct, but the results would reflect what the thing is actually doing, and would also have the upshot of working with older vehicles that don't have such a port.
        • would also have the upshot of working with older vehicles that don't have such a port.

          This port goes back to the mid 1990s.

          Vehicles of that age are generally exempt from testing.

        • They do, but they also read the engine performance data over the CANBUS, so while they do have a sensor reading emissions from the tailpipe it's always used in conjunction with reading from the ODB port as well.

        • You're naive. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mmell ( 832646 )
          Didn't make enough money, pure and simple. ANECDOTE FOLLOWS:

          =====

          Bought a 1959 Chevrolet Apache 31 pickup truck in 1978. Motor blew up within fifty miles and I replaced it with a freshly rebuilt 235 L-six motor. Brand new.

          Guy at the California Emissions Control Testing Center (actually, a major auto-repair shop which shall remain nameless here) say's "There's no smog control cannister on this truck. Can't pass it." I had to argue with him and make him look up the concept of a grandfathered vehicle,

          • Good story dude. But pre 75 means no smog check in CA.

            You don't want the blower sticking out of the hood though. Cops spot those and give you tickets for race mods. Hence low rise blowers.

          • Here in socialist NJ you can go to the state inspection center and they do it for free. It's about 15 minutes from my house and I'm in and out in ~3 minutes - get out of the car, they plug you in, rev the car in neutral, check the headlights and blinkers and wipers, get out, get the new sticker, and put it on the windshield. There's sometimes a line, but they have a webcam so you can see if they're busy before making the trip.

            Or you can pay for it to be done at the private shop right down the street - round

      • Seems like you've never had an emissions test done. No, they don't interface with your vehicle's ECU; they stick a probe up it's ass^H^H^H tailpipe.

      • by Optic7 ( 688717 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @03:09PM (#50551103)

        It sounds like they went way beyond that. A comment on Jalopnik says:

        According to the report from the EPA, it used figures such as steering wheel input, barometric pressure, engine run-time, wheel speed, etc, to determine it was being tested on a dyno.

        I think VW is going to be in a world of hurt over this. Apparently their 2016 models are already being held at the port and cannot be delivered to dealers.

    • ... but how does the software in the car know that the vehicle's emissions are being tested in the first place?

      I am curious too. I also imagine it varies quite a bit from location to location. In Denver, for example, they often setup emission detectors near highway onramps. They test and photograph license plates as people drive by. If you pass, they'll send notice in the mail that you don't have to bother visiting an actual emissions station.

    • Hold x+-100 RPM for y time. Then drop to z rpm for testing. It's pretty much a fingerprint.

  • It's the diesel's they have this issue with. Me, I like the Volkswagen Golf TSi. BTW, far as I can see the only difference between a TSi and GTi is the transmission in the latter is a manual. Which is interesting because I find a bunch of used Golf GTIs on craigslist for really short money.
  • Note that the violation is subject to a fine. The administration has no authority to order a recall.

  • My damn VW turbo diesel got 10MPG less after it got around 300 miles on it and I brought it back multiple times to be checked and they said everything was fine. I was swearing up and down that they have a program that reports better fuel mileage while it is still likely to be on a lot and be being test driven.

    • Bought a Nissan Versa early last year that had 21k on it. Average MPG at the time was at 36.something. Had it reset when I did teh first oil change, with my driving it is steady hanging at 39.1mpg - mostly highway or country roads, but some city.

  • Because the whole purpose of the SUV and pickup truck is to evade emissions controls (because they don't apply to 'light commercial vehicles) all SUVs and pickups (not actually used for genuine commercial purposes) are being recalled as well.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 )

    I bought a 2015 Jetta TDI (right when gas prices spiked). I was loving the ridiculous mileage I was getting. I figured I was saving about $150-$200 per month in fuel costs over my old Camry.

    Now I'm probably going to lose a shitload of that mileage.

    • I wonder if the increase in particulate pollution is balanced by the decrease in CO2 and fuel extraction pollution due to less fuel being burned. (This isn't time for a knee-jerk reaction. We need actual quantitative analysis here.)

      • Re:Shit. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cpoch ( 673846 ) <chris+slashdot@ch r i s p och.com> on Friday September 18, 2015 @03:03PM (#50551039) Homepage Journal

        It's probably how VW got a Euro spec engine to meet US regulations. Euro specs measure pollution per distance - the way to win is to burn fuel really efficiently. US specs measure pollution per unit of fuel consumption - the way to win is to burn fuel really cleanly. That difference is a big reason why they have much more fuel efficient vehicles in Europe. It's much easier to get a larger engine to burn cleaner. Most manufacturers that sell the same engine in both continents use different tunings in each, where the EU one gets better fuel economy and the US one burns cleaner.

        Manufacturers have been trying to bring the incredible economy that small diesels in Europe get to the US for years but it turns out making a diesel that is significantly more efficient than a comparable gas engine and also meets EPA regulations is really hard. For example, Mazda has been promising Skyactiv-D (diesel) engines in the US for years now, but they keep getting delayed because they're not satisfied with their performance.

  • Thanks, Obama? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mothlos ( 832302 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:25PM (#50550683)

    Saying "The Obama Administration [sic]" makes it sound like some sort of political meddling was behind this action. While the EPA is part of the executive bureaucracy, this does not stink of Obama political officials pushing an agenda, but just normal regulatory oversight and it therefore should be attributed to the agency.

  • If a human did this, they'd be arrested and jailed for fraud. But when a corporation does it, it's just business as usual.

  • I had an older model VW TDi. At the time, the only diesels you could get in the US were VWs and Mercedes. I asked a mechanic at the dealership why, and he told me a lot of diesels won't meet US standards for cleanliness, so they stay in Europe and Asia. I wonder if VW gamed them to keep importing diesel vehicles - we diesel heads are a small, but cultish bunch of people. 45 mpg was pretty much my avg no running the AC, around 40 with the AC on. Just in case you were wondering. And since people are misinf
  • No fine? WTF?
  • I wonder who discovered this software bug and how it was detected. I can understand someone running stats to determine a ratio of cars of a certain make/model failing road side sniffers vs. the same make/model passing the test at testing stations. But do they really do that or is this a case of some aftermarket enthusiasts sifting through the ECU code and "chatting" about the interesting results they found? I can't find any mention of how it was detected, only that it was.

  • From Ars Technica [arstechnica.com]:

    based on various inputs including the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, the duration of the engine's operation, and barometric pressure

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