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Software Transportation

EPA Finds More VW Cheating Software, Including In a Porsche (nytimes.com) 142

schwit1 writes with this news from the Times that Volkswagen's emissions scandal just expanded to include more expensive vehicles with larger diesel engines, including Porsche, and Audi sport-utility vehicles. According to the article: "The Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that it had discovered emissions-cheating software on more Volkswagen and Audi cars than previously disclosed and, for the first time, also found the illegal software in one of the carmaker's high-end Porsche models. The German carmaker disputed the claims, however, saying it had not installed defeat software on the models in question that would 'alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner.' The company pledged in a short statement that it would cooperate with the E.P.A. 'to clarify the matter in its entirety.' The latest findings by environmental regulators put significant new pressure on Volkswagen and its new chief executive, Matthias Müller, who was previously the head of Volkswagen's Porsche division. E.P.A. officials indicated the latest violations were found during testing performed by federal regulators and their counterparts in California and Canada. The implication is that Volkswagen did not provide the information."
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EPA Finds More VW Cheating Software, Including In a Porsche

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  • Damn it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:20AM (#50854629) Journal
    Evidently, those two or three cheating software designers had a buddy over at the Porsche complex.
    • Re:Damn it! (Score:4, Informative)

      by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:24AM (#50854657) Homepage
      They horse the same engines into many different Skoda, Seat, VW, Audi, Porsche cars. The only thing is not many Porsche cars have TDI Diesel engines, a diesel Porsche kind of defeats the purpose unless you just like to be seen going around in a piece of pressed metal that has 'Porsche' written on the exterior instead of 'Skoda'
      • by rossdee ( 243626 )

        Is there a diesel class at Le Mans?

      • We're talking about the Cayenne, so that's exactly the case.

      • "The only thing is not many Porsche cars have TDI Diesel engines, a diesel Porsche kind of defeats the purpose unless you just like to be seen going around in a piece of pressed metal that has 'Porsche' written on the exterior instead of 'Skoda'"

        Really, the Diesel Porsche Cayenne is one of the bestselling Porsches in the US.

        • Which perfectly explains the nickname "Hausfrauenpanzer".

          It is so out of line with the traditional/typical Porsche cars, and having an equally unusual engine ist just one more point to proof that.

      • unless you just like to be seen going around in a piece of pressed metal that has 'Porsche' written on the exterior instead of 'Skoda'

        Wait. You mean that wasn't the point? Don't tell me people actually buy 400hp cars because they believe them to be superior in a 50km/h zone or while stuck in traffic.

        I will wager you that 99% of Porsche owners outside of Germany have no idea what the max speed of their car is and really just bought it because it says Porsche on it. Like the worthless 4wd of theirs I took a ride in which shat itself when driving through a puddle (reversing sensors reacted to 6" deep water) by sounding alarms.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Evidently, the emission targets established by the EPA are a regulation too far.

      Wonder if anyone if looking at Domestic companies. VW and Porsche are no slouch engineers. if they had to cheat to meet the regulations, who else is?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Investigations [theicct.org] (PDF) by the ICCT, the organisation that first discovered the VW TDI emission violations, have already shown that the majority of diesel cars on the road today emit many times more NOx when driving in the real world than during the official test regime, often more than the VW engines this scandal is about. So far, only VW has admitted to cheating, but if all those other manufacturers are not cheating I would really like to know what they are doing instead.

      • Evidently, the emission targets established by the EPA are a regulation too far.

        Wonder if anyone if looking at Domestic companies. VW and Porsche are no slouch engineers. if they had to cheat to meet the regulations, who else is?

        No, the regs were no problem; the problem is they had to cheat to avoid the tank of urea.
        the ultimate goal at VW/Audi/Porsche was to beat Toyota for Biggest In World. Toyota was betting on hybrids; VW was going to go with diesel. They were sure they could hit equivalent mpg, and their intermediate goal was to avoid "customer abrasion"; i.e. the car had to be as convenient and comfortable and and pleasant etc as the gasoline engine. So, noise and roughness and such were engineered out. But the tank of urea

  • Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tx ( 96709 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:26AM (#50854671) Journal

    However VW denies the vehicles have software designed to cheat tests.

    Instead the company says that cars with the 3.0 litre diesel V6 engines "had a software function which had not been adequately described in the application process".

    If VW wants to get past this scandal, they really need to adopt a full-transparency, maximum mea culpa stance right now, and this kind of statement does not appear to be helping. If there's a software function that seems to the EPA to be cheating on emissions tests, well, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

    • by Tx ( 96709 )

      Forgot to link the source of that quote: here [bbc.co.uk].

    • They're dreaming about not admitting culpability in the hope that they can just pay a big cash settlement and walk away. When they say "Yep, we cheated", they will be fighting and losing lawsuits for the next 20 years.
      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        But they are also risking a penalty for denying. They also denied the original discovery at first. If you keep denying parts of your crime, you deserve a far bigger penalty than if you fess up all, at the start, and get it over with. It's a double crime: cheating AND lying. But maybe German courts work different, or they know how to bribe well, or at least think they do.

    • However VW denies the vehicles have software designed to cheat tests.

      Instead the company says that cars with the 3.0 litre diesel V6 engines "had a software function which had not been adequately described in the application process".

      If VW wants to get past this scandal, they really need to adopt a full-transparency, maximum mea culpa stance right now, and this kind of statement does not appear to be helping. If there's a software function that seems to the EPA to be cheating on emissions tests, well, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

      The defense they appear to be using goes like this: The law says the cars must pass this specific test, but it doesn't say the cars have to perform according to those emission standards the rest of the time. Therefore, our actions (or the actions of our rogue engineers) are morally wrong, but not legally wrong. We're sorry, and will fix our reprehensible (but not illegal) actions without opening ourselves up to criminal liability.

    • If there's a software function that seems to the EPA to be cheating on emissions tests, well, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

      Or, perhaps, now that the EPA is carrying around a hammer, everything looks like a nail? Perhaps coupled with the embarrassment of having been hoodwinked by VW for several years, leading to overcompensation/overreaction/presumptive labeling of anything they observe that they don't immediately understand? That seems pretty par for the course for a governmental bureaucracy.

    • I'm inclined to believe VW on this one. The EPA letter [epa.gov] narrows the problem down to an odd mix of vehicles. The 2014 Touareg, the 2015 Cayenne, and various 2016 Audi models. This despite all these vehicles sharing the same 3.0 liter engine each year. If the 2014 Touareg had the defeat device, you'd expect the 2014 Porsche and Audi vehicles to also have it. You'd also expect the 2015 Touareg to have it since it uses the same engine as the 2014 model, but for some reason only the Porsche is flagged as hav
  • by Roodvlees ( 2742853 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:40AM (#50854767)
    I don't understand this whole controversy.
    Consumer organisations warned from before these tests started that they would be falsified.
    From testing by those consumer organisations we've know that the advertised numbers where bullshit.
    What's the big difference between physical alterations to the car and software alterations?
    • What's the big difference between physical alterations to the car and software alterations?

      Software alterations are easier to hide, won't be caught by most wrench-swinging mechanics, and can enable changes in hardware state on an if/then/else basis - i.e. software is perfectly suited to cheating emissions rules.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @10:17AM (#50855049) Journal
        Plus, the DMCA can be swung at any uppity asshole who dares poke at your software; which makes it a safer place to hide regulatory...irregularities.
      • What's the big difference between physical alterations to the car and software alterations?

        Software alterations are easier to hide, won't be caught by most wrench-swinging mechanics, and can enable changes in hardware state on an if/then/else basis - i.e. software is perfectly suited to cheating emissions rules.

        i'm amazed that at no point did they try to claim that they were hacked by North Korea

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't understand this whole controversy.

      Fair enough. How about an non-car analogy.

      Consumer organisations warned from before these tests started that they would be falsified.

      There were warnings that people would cheat on the SAT's too.

      From testing by those consumer organisations we've know that the advertised numbers where bullshit.

      Once people got into college it was quite clear that scores didn't match ability to perform.

      What's the big difference between physical alterations to the car and software alterations?

      Intentionally selecting a test that the student knows the answers of is cheating. Changing the way the test is graded so more answers are marked correct is cheating. The difference is the first inaccurately implies actual knowledge, while the other doesn't differentiate the ignorance inserted into it. The reason a s

      • I don't understand this whole controversy.

        Fair enough. How about an non-car analogy.

        Consumer organisations warned from before these tests started that they would be falsified.

        There were warnings that people would cheat on the SAT's too.

        From testing by those consumer organisations we've know that the advertised numbers where bullshit.

        Once people got into college it was quite clear that scores didn't match ability to perform.

        What's the big difference between physical alterations to the car and software alterations?

        Intentionally selecting a test that the student knows the answers of is cheating. Changing the way the test is graded so more answers are marked correct is cheating. The difference is the first inaccurately implies actual knowledge, while the other doesn't differentiate the ignorance inserted into it. The reason a software alteration is so bad is that as a society we tend to see the first and say, at least they

        This is why we can't have gay marriage. People will cheat. And once the purchase is finalized, it will become clear that performance will not be as advertised.

    • What's the big difference between physical alterations to the car and software alterations?

      A modern engine contains (and has to contain) a device that alters engine parameters dynamically during driving. An additional set of parameters would be just one more parameter set among I don't know how many, but a physical alteration would be something uniquely designed for cheating. But the line between dynamic parameter specialization, over-specialization and outright cheating is not always clear.

      Compare it to that kid that "cheated" in mental arithmetics by memorizing those multiplication tables.

  • Eventually the truth will dribble out, that they have indeed installed the software. They will blame the local engineering heads.

    "These guys learnt about the defeat device in VW models. Then, on their own, without any directives from HQ, without any incentives from us, completely on their own, unbeknowest to the top management, did I say completely on their own, yes on their own, they did it.

    We top management are completely blameless. We get paid oodles of money because we are the smartest and best in leading a complex company through difficult markets. So we deserve every penny we get as pay and bonus.

    But everytime something like this happens, you can't blame the management, not the incentive structure, not the pressure we apply to deliver new and exciting products to our esteemed customers.

    BTW, can we cash all our stocks and options before the company goes bankrupt? Hate to see all those millions of shares and option be priced at zero"

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @10:29AM (#50855159) Journal
      I don't understand why they are even trying the 'oh, just a few lowly rogue engineers' excuse.

      If it were true, that might absolve them on the defeat-device issue; but it'd be pretty horrifying on the 'software validation processes for a life-critical component going into millions of vehicles' front. I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in, near, or on the same road as, a car whose ECU firmware was built under such a sloppy process that some engineering peon could secretly slip easter eggs into it.

      Aside from that, there's also the minor issue that the affected engine doesn't exist in isolation: VW has been making diesel engines for decades, has multiple product lines for various purposes, has ongoing R&D efforts, and so on. Are we supposed to believe that nobody raised an eyebrow when the revision N+1 engines suddenly started turning in far better NOx numbers than the revision N ones; and none of the mechanical engineers had touched anything and the software guys would only look away and mumble something about 'optimized the firmware'? Are we supposed to believe that the R&D people working on refining existing designs or creating new ones aren't wondering why their advanced prototypes are getting worse NOx numbers than years-old production models?

      If you just have a single product; no predecessors, no successors, maybe you can rig the demo without alerting anyone not involved in the rigging; but if your rigged product is an adaptation of a prior version? Then you have to explain an impressive discontinuity in performance between the current design and the prior model; and somehow explain away why the research guys can't do as well as you can(or find research guys so dense that they only use EPA tests and don't wonder why none of their tweaks appear to change the results). That is a great deal harder and less plausible.
      • Are we supposed to believe that nobody raised an eyebrow when the revision N+1 engines suddenly started turning in far better NOx numbers than the revision N ones

        I expect they were trying to keep the numbers from getting worse, not improve on previous values. Revision N is churning out emissions that exceed acceptable levels, so they "optimize" the software to reduce emissions during the conditions in which the excess was observed. Though as you say, it was likely done under the direction of someone high up, with wink-wink, nudge-nudge approval from the rest of management.

        If I were evil, I would have set it up so I could blame it on a junior engineer and still h

        • I realize that it is considered dreadfully impolite to use it against any crime organized enough to be an LLC or equivalent; but I think that problems with this sort of 'deniable management' structure are why we have RICO.
  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @10:04AM (#50854925)

    Up to this point, I suspect all car manufacturers to cheat on emissions, except Tesla, maybe.
    It's like in some sports where all world-class athletes use performance enhancing drugs in order to meet some naturally unrealistic goal.

    • Up to this point, I suspect all car manufacturers to cheat on emissions, except Tesla, maybe. It's like in some sports where all world-class athletes use performance enhancing drugs in order to meet some naturally unrealistic goal.

      I'm surprised that nobody so far has brought up benchmarking tests for software, and the tuning of software to maximize said test scores.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's just bankrupt VW and bankrupt them now. Assess the maximum penalty per vehicle sold, don't allow vehicles to be registered unless they pass applicable emissions tests, and allow consumers to sue VW to recover damages in the event that VW can't deliver on its advertised performance specs while obeying the law.

    Can we hold these big companies to the same standards you or I would be held to if we intentionally perpetrated millions of cases of fraud? I'm not even asking that the entire management and execu

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Let's just bankrupt VW and bankrupt them now.

      What would be gained by that? And how do you plan to bankrupt a company?

      Assess the maximum penalty per vehicle sold, don't allow vehicles to be registered unless they pass applicable emissions tests, and allow consumers to sue VW to recover damages in the event that VW can't deliver on its advertised performance specs while obeying the law.

      All of that is already being done. I don't think that VW is planning to reduce performance with the modifications or that the KBA would let them do that even if they wanted. They have already stated that they will install new parts for engines that would otherwise not be able to meet NOx requirements without affecting mileage or performance.

      Can we hold these big companies to the same standards you or I would be held to if we intentionally perpetrated millions of cases of fraud?

      Sure, but shall we restrict that treatment to cases where companies actually intentionally perpet

      • Let's just bankrupt VW and bankrupt them now.

        What would be gained by that? And how do you plan to bankrupt a company?

        Assess the maximum penalty per vehicle sold, don't allow vehicles to be registered unless they pass applicable emissions tests, and allow consumers to sue VW to recover damages in the event that VW can't deliver on its advertised performance specs while obeying the law.

        All of that is already being done. I don't think that VW is planning to reduce performance with the modifications or that the KBA would let them do that even if they wanted. They have already stated that they will install new parts for engines that would otherwise not be able to meet NOx requirements without affecting mileage or performance.

        Can we hold these big companies to the same standards you or I would be held to if we intentionally perpetrated millions of cases of fraud?

        Sure, but shall we restrict that treatment to cases where companies actually intentionally perpetrated millions of cases of fraud? Not really applicable in this case.

        I'm not even asking that the entire management and executive structure be sent to jail.

        But then that would be a bit pointless. Most of them do not seem to have broken any laws as it stands.

        Is that really so much to fucking ask?

        Yes, since there is this thing called "equality under the law". Several of VW's competitors have done far worse things and got away with minor fines and no criminal prosecution for anyone involved. For example, General Motors did [nytimes.com] had a defeat device in a similar number of cars in the U.S. and it cost them a grand total of $45 million in fines, recalls and payments towards compensation projects.

        given how lightly we treat car companies who deliberately decide that killing vehicle occupants is permissible, I doubt that we will do much to those who merely decide to kill members of the general breathing population.

    • I'm not even asking that the entire management and executive structure be sent to jail.

      But that's exactly what would help prevent these kinds of things.

      The mindset of senior management is that there is no consequence for their actions. There will only be dollar/euro costs and these will be borne by the company, to be extracted from shareholders and future customers.

      I'd advocate for two things. One, the real likelihood of jail time. After that, some kind of law that requires executives to be personally financially liable for these crimes, up to and including auctioning off their personal pr

    • Yes, it sure is.

      I like my real world 50mpg highway, instead of 42mpg epa rated and advertised.

      I also like my actual 155hp crank hp instead of advertisted 140hp.

      People mostly buy diesels for efficency (typically 30% more than gas engine), longevity and lower maintenance, not to be green.

    • Let's just bankrupt VW and bankrupt them now. Assess the maximum penalty per vehicle sold, don't allow vehicles to be registered unless they pass applicable emissions tests, and allow consumers to sue VW to recover damages in the event that VW can't deliver on its advertised performance specs while obeying the law.

      Can we hold these big companies to the same standards you or I would be held to if we intentionally perpetrated millions of cases of fraud? I'm not even asking that the entire management and executive structure be sent to jail. I'm just asking that you take the toys away from the children who won't play nicely with them.

      Is that really so much to fucking ask?

      hold them to the same standards we apply to merchant banking. have the government repurchase all such cars at public expense and pay for reengineering a new generation, then give bonuses to all company executives and allow them to sue the government for emotional damages.

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @10:39AM (#50855237) Journal

    To those of you who don't want to RTFA, the diesel engine was an option in only one of Porsche's models and without doing any research I would guess there probably isn't more than a thousand of them with the diesel option in the USA.

    So tempest in a teapot and all that.....

    • by zeoslap ( 190553 )

      This isn't just Porsche though, Audi Q5 & Q7 sold a lot of TDI models as did VW with their Touraeg.

  • by countach44 ( 790998 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @10:59AM (#50855383)
    The VW touareg and Porsche Cayenne share the same platform [wikipedia.org], albeit with different a few different parts and tuning (and being built in a different factory). So, why is this a surprise to anyone?
    • That's actually why I'm a bit skeptical of the EPA claims in this case. The EPA cites [epa.gov] only the 2014 Touareg, 2015 Cayenne, and various 2016 Audi models for having the defeat device. But all three of those vehicle lines sharing the same engine all three years. If you found it on those specific vehicles, you'd expect to find it on all those vehicles for all three years because it's the same engine.
      • Same engine, but different controller software perhaps?

      • That's actually why I'm a bit skeptical of the EPA claims in this case. The EPA cites [epa.gov] only the 2014 Touareg, 2015 Cayenne, and various 2016 Audi models for having the defeat device. But all three of those vehicle lines sharing the same engine all three years. If you found it on those specific vehicles, you'd expect to find it on all those vehicles for all three years because it's the same engine.

        same reason Honda was forced to deal with self destructing transmissions in Accords, but not with the exact same transmission installed in Odysseys or ridgelines. if anyone ever finds out what that reason is please let us know.

    • by WiPEOUT ( 20036 )

      Maybe because the VW CEO resigned in disgrace [npr.org] and the Porsche CEO took over with a mandate to clean up VW's act [theguardian.com], purportedly because Porsche was squeaky clean?

  • So is it still just a few nefarious software developers/Engineers fault and not anyone higher up the ladder?

    /end sarcasm.

    • So is it still just a few nefarious software developers/Engineers fault and not anyone higher up the ladder?

      /end sarcasm.

      turns out it was just Wolfgang over in shipping, who would flip the switch labeled "emissions cheating mode, do not engage" to on, because he thought it was turning the dome light off.

  • Only VW is doing this? Seems pretty unlikely, and here's why I think that's so: http://geekcrumbs.com/2015/10/... [geekcrumbs.com]

  • The engine's computer uses stem cells from fetal tissue bought from Planned Parenthood.
  • Someone posted elsewhere that now would be an ideal time for VW to make sure that _all_ its dirty laundry is aired. (aka "please take these other offences into consideration")

    It's fairly clear that all makers have been gaming the system (various ones have been caught: EG, caterpilar/cummins a couple of years back, Ford about a decade ago and VW 40 years ago) to some degree or another and by stepping forward with everything now VW puts the onus on the others to also step forward or face a major ass-kicking i

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