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Transportation Software Technology Hardware

VW Admits Audi Automatic Transmission Software Can Change Test Behavior (cnet.com) 157

In response to a report via Bild am Sonntag last week, which found a new type of defeat device hidden inside an Audi automatic transmission, Volkswagen finally came around to admitting the findings. "Adaptive shift programs can lead to incorrect and non-reproducible results" in emissions tests, VW told Reuters on Sunday. CNET reports: Software in the AL 551 automatic transmission may detect testing conditions and shift in a way that minimizes emissions, only to act "normally" out on the road. Much like Dieselgate's defeat device, that leads to higher-than-imagined pollution, which could be in excess of legal limits. Audi's AL 551 can be found in both gas and diesel vehicles, including the A6, A8 and Q5. Volkswagen isn't going full mea culpa here, though. The automaker also told Reuters that its adaptive transmission software is meant to change shift points in order to improve on-road performance. Many automatic transmissions these days learn from driver input and tailor shifting to match a driver's style, which leads to a smoother drive. VW Group did not immediately return a request for comment.
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VW Admits Audi Automatic Transmission Software Can Change Test Behavior

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  • Hey, the Hay Sniffer is a legitimate hack. This is the software routine that "sniffs the hay" to determine if you are out on a country road and not driving one of the Federal Cycles.

    My criterion is if you drive a Federal Cycle for real out on a highway, a test track, or a high school parking lot, it should give the same control coefficients as on the chassis rollers in Ann Arbor, Michigan. None of this "oh, only the back wheels are turning, I must be in Ann Arbor."

    But if it only gives Federal Cycle p

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For $deity$ sake. Is this the final word ?
    Or tomorrow we will find that in test conditions it transform also in a unicycle ?

  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) <kepler1@hotmail.cGAUSSom minus math_god> on Monday November 14, 2016 @08:38PM (#53286265)
    This just keeps on getting better and better. VW Group have simply not owned up to the depth of their cheating and been forthright with their cooperation.

    Our regulators should slap increasing penalties on each successive cheat they find, to penalize for the hiding of evidence over and above the violation itself.
    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      It won't matter soon, because President Trump told us he will get rid of pesky regulatory bodies like the EPA.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My Nissan Leaf does not cheat on emissions tests because it has no exhaust. It also does not have a transmission, so it can't cheat that way either. The closest that it is capable of cheating is the Guess-O-Meter, which determines the remaining drivable mileage based on various factors.

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      This just keeps on getting better and better. VW Group have simply not owned up to the depth of their cheating and been forthright with their cooperation.

      Our regulators should slap increasing penalties on each successive cheat they find, to penalize for the hiding of evidence over and above the violation itself.

      I'm not sure this is nearly as bad as you make it sound. I have an Audi S5, and it has several shift programs you can choose. One is "Auto," where it looks at your driving style, and adjusts shift points and throttle response accordingly. If you're driving gently, it goes towards comfort/eco mode, which uses less fuel. If you drive aggressively, it goes toward sports mode, which keeps revs higher and uses more fuel. So, no shit, if you use that mode (which I think might be the default), and the test is gent

  • "can lead to incorrect and non-reproducible results". I'd be bloody rich. I'd have just said: "Yeah, you got us again. How much you want this time?"
  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    I have a Landcruiser that has 'adaptive' shifting. A button I press in for power and out for economy. Want to hear something worse? Everything else I own is a stick. So I shift when I damned well please.

    • They laughed when I bought a manual transmission. "Ha. Modern automatics get just as good mileage as manuals" they said. Still, operating a manual is *WAY* more fun, and now, way more LEGAL! Who knew?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I had an Audi that not only had adaptive shifting; it knew who was behind the wheel.. If I started the car with my fob, the seats, steering wheel, pedals and shift points would all adjust to my settings and habits; and when my wife was behind the wheel they all automatically changed to her settings and habits.

      Since I drove the car alot harder than she did; the few times I drove with her fob it was absolutely miserable.. mebe her adaptation had less emissions than the defaults; and perhaps mine had more emis

      • but there are no such thing as defaults in a car that even gets driven to the test place. how hard you jam down on the pedal affects the "sportiness" and thus shifting points, all kinds of things affect it.

        the problem is that they do the tests like this: stick it on a dyno and run a pre made program, without even fucking moving.

        they should just make a tester small enough to fit in the boot or passenger area, and drive around a test track - vw's "cheating" would have had to be of different kind in that case.

    • I have a Landcruiser that has 'adaptive' shifting. A button I press in for power and out for economy.

      That is not adaptive shifting. What we are talking about here is what Audi (and most others) call DSP, or Dynamischshaltprogramm. Er, that is, dynamic shift program. The transmission is programmed ahead of time with many different shift modes which are arranged in a table. Each program modifies the shift points, shift speed (which controls the firmness of the shift) and so on in an attempt to match the driver's expectations regarding shift time and point, based on throttle input. Unfortunately, people who a

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        After you've driven a Tesla (with no transmission or clutch) you'll realize what a kludge it is to have all that machinery whizzing around attempting to match the limited torque range of an ICE engine to the wheels. Rube Goldberg made simple things in comparison.
        EVs are so much less complex.

        • After you've driven a Tesla (with no transmission or clutch) you'll realize what a kludge it is to have all that machinery whizzing around attempting to match the limited torque range of an ICE engine to the wheels

          After I can get a good one for five or ten grand, I'll be interested.

  • This is BS. There are so many variables in emission testing that almost anything will affect the results. I's sure altitude, humidity, gas octane, maybe even oil could affect things to name a few. Give it up!!
    • by gTsiros ( 205624 )

      not that the ECU's job is to control the engine so that it will perform within spec as long as it is operated when conditions are within spec.

      but whatever

  • by srw ( 38421 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @10:13PM (#53286731) Homepage
    The only question I want answered is "did it pass the test as written by the government?". If yes, what's the problem. If you don't like the results, fix the test.
    • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Monday November 14, 2016 @11:55PM (#53287149)

      That's a very good point. The issue with all of these "shocking discoveries" is that they in fact PASSED the various prescribed tests. There is nothing in the law that says it has to perform the same in actual driving rather than the EPA load cycle. The specific EPA load cycle is what is in the test, there IS NO SPECIFICATION for what it does on the road, period.

          Note that everybody with any concept of the way diesels work know that the various performance/emissions "breakthroughs" touted (now, apparently, falsely) by the European car makers were false. This was demonstrated by the back of "clean diesels" turning black in short order on US roads, and most of the cities of Europe turning gray from accumulated diesel soot.

            They are more-or-less scuzzy, but they haven't broken the law.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 15, 2016 @12:51AM (#53287323)

        The specific EPA load cycle is what is in the test, there IS NO SPECIFICATION for what it does on the road, period.

        There is a specification that you not intentionally do something different during the test though.

        https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/40/86.1809-10 [cornell.edu]
        "The manufacturer must show to the satisfaction of the Administrator that the vehicle design does not incorporate strategies that unnecessarily reduce emission control effectiveness exhibited during the Federal Test Procedure or Supplemental Federal Test Procedure (FTP or SFTP) when the vehicle is operated under conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use."

        It doesn't count as passing if you cheat.

        • by MadKeithV ( 102058 ) on Tuesday November 15, 2016 @04:13AM (#53287815)
          And it also prohibits the use of "defeat devices" [gpo.gov] that reduce emission control effectiveness during normal operation and use: "(f) Defeat devices. You may not equip your locomotives with a defeat device. A defeat device is an auxiliary emission control device (AECD) that reduces the effectiveness of emission controls under conditions that the locomotive may reasonably be expected to encounter during normal operation and use."
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday November 15, 2016 @07:47AM (#53288321) Homepage Journal

        Actually, the law quite specifically says "no defeat devices" in the EU, and I'd be amazed if the US law didn't have a similar clause that you aren't allow to run the car in a special low emission mode designed purely to game the test.

        Or maybe VW's lawyers are so incompetent they didn't think of that and cost it billions of dollars.

        • The US absolutely does prohibit the use of a defeat device, which is defined as a physical device which cheats the test, or software which performs the same purpose. Yes, it's worded much like that.

    • The problem with that approach is that it's like bringing the person who wrote the test into the room to help you answer questions. You can rewrite the test 100s of times, the result will be the same if the device under test cheats.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      The only question I want answered is "did it pass the test as written by the government?". If yes, what's the problem. If you don't like the results, fix the test.

      Its not the test.

      Imagine if you had someone else sit an exam in your place. Would you be worthy of holding the certification after that? Because that is essentially what VW is doing with cheat devices.

      The Euro and US tests have flaws, but the problem here is that manufacturers are employing cheat devices to pass them.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      The rules of the test include "no cheating," which means no "defeat devices [wikipedia.org]". So, to answer your question, no, it did not pass the test.
      • The mission of modern effective engine control is to adopt to current situation and run the engine in a way that delivers the power needed in this situation with minimum exhaust/fuel. In any situation. Including tests.....

        Line between adaptive motor control and defeat device became blurry.

    • I'm not sure in US laws, as the lawyers can win with stupid arguments like this. But in most of European countries, they're clearly cheating the tests and fucking the law goal, which is to not allow vehicles polluting more than required by the specs to run.
    • This is really the case where I have a hard time grasping the test.

      It's the automotive sector. Relative to the size of the market, there really aren't that many cars to test.

      People are already aware or should be aware that the EPA results don't match to real world driving conditions.

      Why not just do what many car magazines or journalists do. Take the car for a test run of mixed highway and city driving and report the results. You can have some baseline weather conditions for the test. You can have some train

    • US is a little fuzzier. The laws are written to take intent into consideration. In other words, if you follow the letter of the law and violate the spirit you get nailed. It's banking, which hurts people that matter though, so take that as you will.
  • The sooner we as a society can move to electric, the better.

  • Given the latest revelations, I doubt there a product they make that we can definitely say is actually compliant.

    At this point, it's a plateful of lies smothered in bullshit sauce.

    The only penalty regulators should be considering at this point is shutting them down.

  • From the description, this doesn't sound like cheating. It simply sounds like the transmission shifting algorithm can vary shift points, which in turn can affect emissions. There's nothing surprising or revelatory about that. The real problem seems to be that the EPA is using a static test for a dynamic system.

  • My BMW M3 does much the same thing with automatic mode in it's SMG gearbox which is basically a manual double clutch transmission with the option of allowing a computer to shift for you. It will change and adapt over time the more you drive it. Gearheads have known about this for over a decade now.

    Whatever they're paying these people to inspect these cars, they're paying them too much if they don't know about stuff like this.

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