back to article Audi, Seat, Skoda admit they've been fiddling car pollution tests as well

The fallout from Volkswagen's use of software to cheat on emissions tests is spreading: Audi and Skoda (both of which are owned by VW) admit that some of their cars carry the dodgy code. In all, Audi says 2.1 million of its vehicles are using the dodgy system – the vast majority of those are in Europe. The car maker told El …

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  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So if all these vehicles are required to use the "proper" coding in the computer, does this mean that they will run like a Trabant?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. BillG
      Facepalm

      Multiple people would have had to have been involved at many stages of the design process to make the system work, and sign off on it for production.

      Having worked in Detroit, I can tell you that engine control code and transmission control code is guarded more fiercely than any government secret, with special buildings that have multiple access codes guarding information that is very highly compartmentalized. Each and every functionality of engine code is documented, scrutinized, and signed off at the very highest corporate level, especially since emissions and performance of the fleet directly affect stock price. For coding cheats that impact the company of this over-reaching magnitude, I cannot see the CEO not knowing, especially for a German company where all important decisions are made at the top.

      1. Rod 6

        open source

        May be we should force car manufactures to open source their car management code. Our lives do depend on it after all.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "open source their car management code. Our lives do depend on it after all"

          Not really. Our lives depend mostly on the efficiency of the brakes and ABS, and on the precision of the steering. The engine is generally what gets us into trouble, rarely what gets us out of it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Our lives do depend on it after all" @Pascal

            >The engine is generally what gets us into trouble, rarely what gets us out of it.

            Oh dear. Just wait for the petrol heads see that and claim that having 500bhp in a Fiesta will allow them to take evasive action and get them out of danger.

            1. asdf Silver badge

              Re: "Our lives do depend on it after all" @Pascal

              >Oh dear. Just wait for the petrol heads

              Lot fewer of those today than even a decade ago at least in the US. A lot of millennials now don't even have drivers licenses and with self driving cars on the horizon I am afraid its only going to get worse. That era shown in The Hollywood Knights and American Graffiti is long gone.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "open source their car management code. Our lives do depend on it after all"

            Pascal, I believe his point was that our lives are affected by the noxious exhaust fumes. Not other aspects of the engine's performance.

            The theory is that if the test results has not been 'cheated' then sales of these vehicles would have been lower,leading to cleaner air for all, as some people bought cleaner alternatives.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "open source their car management code. Our lives do depend on it after all"

            " Our lives depend mostly on the efficiency of the brakes and ABS, and on the precision of the steering."

            As secure as the brakes that got hacked via the phone enabled entertainment system

          4. PNGuinn
            WTF?

            @ Pascal Monett Re: "... Our lives do depend on it after all"

            Try telling that to the poor sod who nearly got wiped out on a level crossing because the drive wheels slipped and the traction control system got confused. I can't remember the details but it was on elReg some months ago.

            Methinks that when I put my hoof on a pedal I want some confidence in what the machinery is going to do. I just don't have that with modern vehicles at the moment.

        2. Smooth Newt

          Re: open source

          Perhaps from a computer security perspective, but they would have little incentive to bother investing in producing better software, and thus more efficient cars, if they can just copy eachother's homework. On the other hand, the patent lawyers would make even more money.

      2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        For coding cheats that impact the company of this over-reaching magnitude, I cannot see the CEO not knowing

        It is not so much having known, but what they knew. It is one thing to say "we're cheating the system", quite another to say "we have developed software which improves compliance with emission testing, puts us ahead of the market in a number of key areas and will generate a marked increase in sales". Who wouldn't sign off on that?

        Perhaps it was not so entirely innocent, that the CEO did know more than that, but it's in the same ballpark as "the legality of war in Iraq". A CEO acts on advice of advisors and may have been convinced it was entirely legal and acceptable at the time.

    3. asdf Silver badge

      >does this mean that they will run like a Trabant?

      Or certainly more like their competitors explaining why VW's diesel magic was too good to be true.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        "Or certainly more like their competitors explaining why VW's diesel magic was too good to be true."

        VW's magic was to "pass" certification whilst omitting a urea injection system. I don't think that necessarily turned into VWs being cheaper than the competition, they just made more profit from it.

        If by "magic" you mean high performance whilst being clean, then seemingly others have managed it. The researchers who spilt the beans on VW specifically cited a BMW X5 (I think it was one of those) as being Okay. One should hope so - BMW put on a urea injection system, and use 2 or 3 turbos to extract the maximum performance from a smallest amount of fuel. With all that lot it jolly well ought to be clean.

        However, that's a lot of very expensive kit strapped to the side of the engine block, and doesn't really come in at a price point compatible with low end market pricing. That suits BMW just fine, but it's not affordable for the lower end manufacturers.

        I suspect the result of all this will be an increase in the cost of manufacturing a diesel engine for the low end of the market, which will effectively dump them out of the market altogether. Petrol / petrol hybrid will likely end up being cheaper.

        Even (or as some might say, especially) BMW get things hopelessly wrong sometimes. On at least one of their twin turbo diesels there is a linkage between an actuator and the turbo's vanes, and the metal (or plastic, I forget which) they used for this part has the consistency and resilience of cheese. It wears very quickly, consequently the turbo vanes are not set right, and there's all sorts of running and emissions problems as a result. There's a good trade for independent BMW specialists in replacing these simple linkages with proper ones made out of proper metal.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          I don't think that necessarily turned into VWs being cheaper than the competition, they just made more profit from it.

          It wasn't so much price as image. VW wanted to convince the US market that diesel was cleaner than petrol/gasoline, and no more trouble to use. They didn't want the engines to seem more complex, with extra servicing needs, like urea tanks to refill.

          BMW...consequently the turbo vanes are not set right

          From what I've heard, they ultimately get so not-right that they come loose and the engine ingests them. That must make a very expensive noise.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Nope

      They will definitely not stink like one.

      As far as them being involved it is a natural consequence of VW replacing engineering as a differentiator by brand development and having a brand development director at the level of head of engineering (both presently suspended and under investigation).

      VW family tree are all the same. It is the "Failure of Ford" taken to the extreme. There is no engineering difference between the low end (involved in this scandal) Skoda, Audi and Seat mechanically. They use the same chassis, engine, suspension, transmission, electronics, etc and differ only in their outer shell and level of plastic-ness of the interior. VW is also the same. It used to trail Audi/Skoda/Seat technically by a year to allow these to do "advanced development", but even that has been replaced by brand distinction now.

      1. enormous c word

        Re: Nope

        VW Audi are the masters of re-platforming - the flagship VW Phaeton, Audi A8, Bentley Continental all share the same platform. These engine management shenanigans could well cross the whole product line. I wonder which other manufacturers have also cheated the tests - there will be others, have no doubt.

    5. PNGuinn

      @ Mark 85

      And smoke like one?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not dodgy pollution software

    it's a performance enhancing mod.

    1. Notas Badoff
      Joke

      Re: It's not dodgy pollution software

      They just wanted to see how much the processing units could be over-NOx'ed.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

    €7bn in provisions looks quite modest, when you consider the savings across the VW Group, as all those subsidiaries were able to access the group Centre of Competence in Fraud & Dishonesty. German companies love the idea of centralisation (so long as its in Germany) and deduplication, and here we see the full benefits of the system.

    If each VW group company had been forced to have innovated their own unique designs, the costs of establishing eight different methods of cheating would have been astronomical.

    1. petur
      WTF?

      Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

      Nah, they all just bought the dodgy firmware from Bosch.

      I kinda wonder why nobody points a finger at them for writing/offering that code in the first place.

      1. The Wegie

        Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

        Bosch are supposed to have first warned VW not to use the siftware to cheat in 2007.

        Www.ibtimes.co.uk/vw-scandal-carmaker-was-warned-about-test-rigging-software-2007-1521442

        1. petur

          Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

          OK, so by that logic, I can write a virus and sell it on the market, as long as I warn you to not actually use it in the open.

          Rrrrright.

          Bosch should never have written cheatware in the first place... Give me any good reason why you need such software in testing?

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

            @petur - Give me any good reason why you need such software in testing?

            For testing purposes. Although I'd expect the "IF" to be a hardware switch, not an "if steering isn't used, and we go full throttle"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Stop

            Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

            " Give me any good reason why you need such software in testing?"

            The same reason you may run a jet engine at 150% of it's required maximum power, the same reason you may want to run a CPU at 80% constantly , same reason you may want to run air conditioning at 5 degrees c.

            Testing.

            You then can set a benchmark to compare your real world results against,

            This may of been set to test the engine, and NOT the emissions.

            1. Martin
              Headmaster

              Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

              This may of been set to test the engine.

              No, no, no!

              This may HAVE been set to test the engine.

              Or, so that it sounds like what you've written...

              This may've been set to test the engine.

              But please, please - not "may of".

              This particularly egregious error is becoming increasingly prevalent - I'm really scared that in ten years time it will become acceptable.

              1. future research

                Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

                But please, please - not "may of".

                This particularly egregious error is becoming increasingly prevalent - I'm really scared that in ten years time it will become acceptable.

                What is the problem with that, Language does change over time?

                1. dotdavid

                  Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

                  "Language does change over time"

                  In the future your going to see more homonym substitutions which could of bin avoided by better spelling education today.

                2. Alister Silver badge

                  Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

                  Language does change over time?

                  I'm fed up of seeing this trotted out as an excuse for ignorance or poor education.

                  Yes, language does change over time, but not to the extent that the word "of" will ever have the same meaning as the word "have".

                  Language and grammar have rules, in part so that non-native speakers can learn the language.

                  English is already one of the harder languages to learn, but what chance does anybody have of learning to speak and write it correctly if arbitrary nonsense is allowed to become the norm?

                  This doesn't happen to other languages as far as I'm aware, so why is English considered fair game for such abuses?

                  </rant>

                3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
                  FAIL

                  Of != Have

                  @future research:

                  What is the problem with that, Language does change over time?

                  Fuck it, why not just allow "of" and "have" to be used interchangeably? Nothing could possibly go wrong with that now, could it...?

                  May I of one have whatever you're smoking please?

                  If this is your idea have a brave new world, I want to of no part have it.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Of != Have

                    East shoots and leaves.

                    People will work it out.

                    Maybe.

                    The legacy of "education education education"?

                    1. PNGuinn
                      Headmaster

                      Re: Of != Have - East shoots and leaves

                      Oops!

                  2. Martin
                    Happy

                    Re: Of != Have

                    May I of one have whatever you're smoking please?

                    Have course you may!

                    Thanks to all of you for the support. Perhaps I'll start a campaign.

                  3. PNGuinn
                    Joke

                    Re: Of != Have

                    Now, IF we ever get to see VW's source code I wonder if we might see some comments like that? In best Krautish, of course.

          3. theOtherJT

            Re: Never mind the fines, think of the SAVINGS

            "Bosch should never have written cheatware in the first place... Give me any good reason why you need such software in testing?"

            You need it because otherwise the car would have a massive panic and try and turn itself off.

            The engine management / stability control / abs etc. are all linked these days. Imagine a situation where the car is on a road and the front wheels are turning, the back wheels are stationary, and the air intake pressure has dropped through the floor. It's clearly having some kind of MASSIVE accident, and the safety systems built into the thing are going to freak out and try and cut the engine off.

            As I understand it BOSCH wrote this stuff so that in that situation the ECU goes "No, it's ok, you're on a test rig. Don't engage the ABS. Don't kill the engine. You should enact the following changes to the engine management to make up for the change in manifold pressure in order to keep running normally."

            They then supplied VW with a note to the effect that since it was now going to have to handle things like preferred combustion temperature and fuel air mix according to some pre-set rules rather than relying on the sensor data on the rest of the engine, you need to tune those rules very carefully to give an accurate representation of what the car would do if it was actually on a road.

            At that point someone went "Hmmmm... so what you're saying is that when the car detects that it's on a test rig, we can program the engine to run whatever emissions and power profile we want? Interesting..." and the rest is history.

  4. Not That Andrew

    Hmm, I wonder about MAN and Scania.

    1. Charles Manning

      Truck software is tuned in a completely different way than car sw. I doubt the trucks have this sort of issue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I doubt the trucks have this sort of issue.

        Some decades ago I worked for a large truck maker. I can assure you that meeting the regulatory standards of the time did involve that "special" sort of creativity, albeit then of a less technical nature than environment aware ECU remapping or similar.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Are you sure?

        Secondly, how are you sure?

  5. rob_leady
    Facepalm

    Hardly news...

    The original VW *GROUP* press release, stated that 11 million Volkswagen *GROUP* vehicles were affected.

    It shouldn't come as any surprise that Audi, Škoda, Seat, etc are affected !

    1. GregC
      Holmes

      Re: Hardly news...

      Yep, that was my first thought - this is entirely expected. Though I've always assumed this kind of thing was rife anyway...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    While these vehicles may all have the code installed

    That just means that they have a single common firmware. It doesn't mean 11million vehicles were cheating the emissions testing. When all is said and done, it may transpire that the only vehicles actually "at fault" are the ones in the USA, where the emissions levels for diesel vehicles were set incredibly low.

    (And as has been pointed out repeatedly, the ships used to transport said vehicles & parts to the USofA will have spewed far more pollutants in to the atmosphere in that one short journey than the vehicles ever could in their lifetime)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: While these vehicles may all have the code installed

      And only in locales that require emissions testing...

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: While these vehicles may all have the code installed

      @AC. Yep no big deal huh? Unless you own stock I suppose.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: While these vehicles may all have the code installed

      Yes, because it is EXACTLY the same thing to have one ship spew NOx in the open ocean across thousands of miles as it is to have hundreds of cars running diesel spew NOx into a basin suffering a inversion (think LA in the summer).

      Location, location, location. Approaching port these ocean-going belchers are required to burn something cleaner than the bunker sludge* they normally use. So yeah, they're dirty, but they do it away from people who expect to be able to breathe (ship's crew aside).

      *Container ships use stuff so awful it has to be heated up to get it to flow through the injectors.

      1. John Crisp

        Re: While these vehicles may all have the code installed

        *Container ships use stuff so awful it has to be heated up to get it to flow through the injectors.

        Not just container ships, but pretty well any large ocean going ship.

        If I remember rightly the main reason for running lighter 'cleaner' fuel (on a low speed 2 stroke diesel engine) was better start/stop & low speed response when manouvering.

        Didn't matter on a steamship with oil injected boilers though.

        But yes it did have to be heated either way.

        Can't remember now if we used tank heaters to get it out of the tanks like you have to for crude oil. But yes, heavy 'bunker' oil was pretty messy stuff.

        Ahh... fun times at sea in my yoof..... Lash me to the bar. Mines another large one :-)

    4. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: While these vehicles may all have the code installed

      @AC - Shipping

      Maersk large ships (they have 8) take 15,200 containers

      Engines produce well over 115k bhp (including heat recovery etc)

      burning 16 tons/hour

      travelling at 29.3mph

      For crude: 1 ton is 307.86 gallons

      So: 29.3/(16*307.86) = 0.006mpg

      But that's spread across 15,200 containers: 90mpg/container

      A standard container will take between 3 and 5 cars, so that's going up to 360mpg per car. The fuel isn't particularly clean (understatement of the millenium) but it is a single journey for each car, with a pretty good fuel efficiency.

      Of course if they transitioned to nuclear powered container ship we'd be in a much nicer place - but the panic would be hilarious.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: While these vehicles may all have the code installed

        if they transitioned to nuclear powered container ship Oh, I'd love that, just for the enjoyment of watching the greens.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: While these vehicles may all have the code installed

          @Bronek Kozicki

          Indeed, although I think the politrikians might be shouting "errorist" more loudly even than the greens could shout, whatever it is they would shout...

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