back to article US docs show Daimler may have done a Dieselgate – German press claims

American investigators are looking into Mercedes maker Daimler's use of engine management software that is alleged to help its vehicles pass emissions tests, according to reports. German tabloid Bild am Sonntag splashed yesterday (behind paywall) that US investigators had found "several software functions that helped Daimler …

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("exhaust aftertreatment", according to Google Translate)

That is not catalytic converter, that is urea injection. Catalytic converter cannot be disabled - it is always in-flow for the exhaust.

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Joke

Exhaust aftertreatment

Wow! They really were taking the piss.

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Anonymous Coward

Possibly EGR related? (Exhaust gas re-circulation) I replaced the valve in my VW last year only for it go again this year. Top tip: if you have a diesel check out the new MOT rules coming 20/4, I think a lot of cars are going to go off-road.

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Top tip: if you have a diesel check out the new MOT rules coming 20/4, I think a lot of cars are going to go off-road.

It is only an extra DPF presence/tamper test. Various forms of De-EGRisation as done by most commercial and hire car drivers in London are still not checked for. So the real problem with diesel in urban environments, namely NO2, will continue as before...

By the way - it is 20th of May, not 20th of April.

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Anonymous Coward

Thanks for the correction, I was on the understanding that if your emissions had any visible smoke it's an instant fail which could be dependent on your particulate filter and whether it's cleaned itself recently or has been for a good run out on a motorway.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually, any form of accelerative thrashing round town or motorway will do, but simply running on the motorway could make it worse. A lot of reasonably powerful diesels can do 60-70 below 2,000 rpm, and the turbo will be providing virtually no boost, and exhaust gas velocity will be very low. That will give great fuel economy, but builds up soot in the exhaust system ready to be belched when overtaking cyclists which could be a problem if you then drop it in for the MoT. The DPF will not help that much, because you'll still get the ultra fine soot in the rear silencer box and tailpipe.

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it's cleaned itself recently or has been for a good run out on a motorway.

Autobahn - yah, Motorway - nein. Insufficient revs to give the DPF filter a good burn.

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Anonymous Coward

"...any visible smoke..."

AC mentioned, "...if your emissions had any visible smoke..."

Years ago, I got pulled into a debate about diesel emissions. The issue was that cars were being tested to the nth parts per million degree, while heavy diesel vehicles (including city buses in the downtown core) were freely roaming around belching great columns of black soot.

The point that I was trying to make at the time was that 99+% of the ground level air pollution in the city core was from the city's own fleet of smoke belching buses. It seemed ineffective to waste resources by addressing the wrong source. Just in case actually being effective mattered to anyone.

I looked up the pollution standard for heavy diesel vehicles. They must not block more than 40% of the light when measured across their tail pipe. So a 'Pass' still allows a great column of black soot to be emitted. And most city buses at that time and place would not pass even that.

An amazing observation was that the 100+ commuters clustered around a downtown bus stop at the evening rush hour, craning their necks to read the number on the next bus, they didn't even flinch when the previous bus pulled away dosing them in a thick cloud of black soot. Not even a flinch!! I've never seen so many totally uninformed people, disinterested in their own health, all in one uniformly daft crowd before. It was unbelievable.

I'm looking at you downtown Ottawa spreadsheet jockies, circa 2002. They're probably all already dead, cremated with unexpected ferocity and oily stink, and then buried as hazardous waste.

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Anonymous Coward

https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/80118100

A Netflix Original Series documenting various stories about exposing the greed, corruption, and crime spreading through the global economy.

The first episode is the NOx issue with VW diesels.

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Re: "...any visible smoke..."

I looked up the pollution standard for heavy diesel vehicles.

That was a UK specific issue. UK was the only country in Europe which disallowed diesel fumigation (*). In the pre-DPF days fumigating a diesel with small injection of LPG at the air intake manifold was the only way to reduce soot by several orders of magnitude. This technique is now out of fashion for automotive - it is replaced by DPF. It will probably not pass today reqs too - it makes the burn much cleaner resulting in significantly higher NO2 emissions. It is still used for motorboats as well as other places where DPF is not suitable.

Unfortunately, in addition to reducing soot, it also increases power output and reduces diesel fuel consumption. As a result it suffered the fate of anything which could endanger the fuel excise revenue. Sleazy Tony Bliar and Gordon Brownpants did not make compromises on anything like that. Anything which would significantly reduce excise revenue was sabotaged by any means possible. So UK pretended it did not exist while most of Eu large city public transport (f.e all of Milan, most German cities, etc) ran fumigated.

This is the root cause of the ridiculous soot standard for city buses, etc ~15-20 years ago. It was there in order to be able to pretend that fumigation is unnecessary.

(*)Aka white diesel, disel bianco, etc

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Anonymous Coward

Mine included.

When I got to the uk I was amazed with the MOT.. as in "no purpose".

Time to get another car I guess.

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Anonymous Coward

Autobahn - yah, Motorway - nein. Insufficient revs to give the DPF filter a good burn.

At least that's a good argument to leave it in "sports" mode (not as weird for a diesel as you might think). I wonder if it's an acceptable excuse for speeding :p. "I was cleaning my exhaust, officer, and no, I did not mean that as a euphemism."

This is why I dislike high levels of automation - I would prefer that the engine told me it needs a good stretch to heat up and clean itself but nowadays you're lucky if you still get a temperature gauge.

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Re: "...any visible smoke..."

"I looked up the pollution standard for heavy diesel vehicles.

That was a UK specific issue."

Are you sure about this? "Free market" lobbyists in US established the practice of standards exempt glider trucks where old, emission systems unencumbered engine is mounted into the new truck frame. Just don't try doing the same to your personal vehicle where any modification may render it off-road only (cops turning blind eye are entirely different story). With or without the emission systems, I'd argue that no commercial diesel vehicle should be permitted unless equipped with vertical exhaust pipe, 10+ feet off the ground (including f.. school buses).

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Just take the vehicle up the motorway in third or fourth gear so the revs are above 4000 rpm for around 20 miles, that usually will clean the dpf, providing there are no other faults.

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Anonymous Coward

All modern cars I've seen automatically burn off the soot. The problem comes when you do so many short journeys that they don't get the chance.

I think I'd rather I could ask for a "clean" when I wanted one rather than doing a rare short trip and finding the car has decided to go into burn mode... what does it think it is Windows 10?

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Re: "...any visible smoke..."

" belching great columns of black soot."

The black columns of soot aren't actually as much of a problem as you may think. Those are heavy particles which don't get deep into lungs and don't stay in the air very long.

The dangerous stuff is invisible and emitted by cars too - and cars running lean emit shitloads of NOX - it's one of the reasons the USA legislated stociometric fuel mixtures (they could have regulated tailpipe emissions and let makers solve the issue however they wanted but regulating fuel ratios meant cheap 3-way catalysts and meant that a lot of japanese R&D into high-milage/low NOX had to be thrown out. Advantage Detroit - and that's why VTEC and friends went away.)

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Re: "...any visible smoke..."

Using veg oil (or a blend) reduces NOX and smoke dramatically, but the heavier oil gives startup difficulties. The bigger problems for busses and suchlike is the highly variable loadings and a decent hybrid drivetrain (NOT Boris busses) might go a long way towards solving that. (the existing ones are a bit of a faff, or constantly breaking - or both - quality british designs and all that.)

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Trollface

Found your problem

You bought a VW!

Maybe try getting a car that isn't shite?

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Mushroom

What about the monkeys?

Did they gas monkeys too, or was that just VW?

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Re: What about the monkeys?

It was VW, Daimler and BMW who were involved in the monkeygate saga.

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Re: What about the monkeys?

Not to mention the fact that the same companies are under investigation over allegations of being part of a cartel to fix steel purchase prices.

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Meh

Re: What about the monkeys?

If they really want to know about the effects of Diesel emissions on the human body, they just need to come to the shop that I work in. 90% of the engines we work on are pre-emissions controls of any kind and we don't have the kind of ventilation that takes the exhaust straight outside.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What about the monkeys?

You mean that they treat you worse than the monkeys??

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Coat

Re: What about the monkeys?

Gas Monkeys got paid.

Boom!

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Holmes

Re: What about the monkeys?

>You mean that they treat you worse than the monkeys??

Do they work in the US, by any chance?

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Big Brother

Re: What about the monkeys?

Close...think more north.

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American investigators are looking into car company Daimler's use of engine management software that is alleged to help its vehicles pass emissions tests, according to reports.

Of course no one at Daimler knows anything about this and in a statement they will deny any knowledge of wrongdoing while promising to investigate internally. Investigate internally meaning getting rid of as much evidence as possible before anyone starts asking too many questions.

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Pint

"...getting rid of as much evidence as possible ..."

This is where Over The Air updates of automobile ECUs would be very helpful. Manufacturers could overwrite their cheat code from the entire fleet.

Somebody would point out that there might be a crashed car in a junkyard that would give the game away. No problem, they'll have Thermite to melt the EEPROM in the event of any disabling crash.

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Re: Over the Air...

Yep, as updating at the end of the month* to make sure all the test go through correctly. ;)

*Actual GPS co-ordinates of all the MOT centres would need to be used instead. You could hide all evidence of a change to the ECU... but of cause could easily get detected by mobile testers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...getting rid of as much evidence as possible ..."

This is where Over The Air updates of automobile ECUs would be very helpful. Manufacturers could overwrite their cheat code from the entire fleet.

As it so happens, most new Mercs are already online all the time, that's how the whole "Mercedes Me" thing works. As far as I can tell it's low throughput, but as it's but a SIM, paying providers to allow a bit more data through the pipe may prove a wise investment. I don't think there is presently a link to the ECU data, but it is already able to report fuel levels, odometer and tyre pressures so the wall between this system and the ECU may not be as thick as it ought to be..

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Re: Over the Air...

"Actual GPS co-ordinates of all the MOT centres would need to be used instead."

Ford got caught doing that in the 00's

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If you want technical info on this

There are some talks on that topic:

https://media.ccc.de/search/?q=Dieselgate

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If you want technical info on this

> https://media.ccc.de/search/?q=Dieselgate

Saw those months ago. Highly recommended (as most CCC stuff).

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The scandal has superficial similarities with accusations that Apple was fiddling CPU benchmarking scores back in 2003. ®

If both reports are true then Apple fiddled performance reports to show their product was better than it was. The only negative effect would have been a small cost to the wallet of people involved.

Cheating on vehicle emissions tests however, is a bigger issue. The emissions test is set to require safe levels of particulates and gasses to be emitted. Cheating on this test and emitting unsafe levels of particulates and gasses has health effects for everybody. It's been reported elseware that 50,000 people in the UK die every year due to cars that shouldn't have passed emissions tests emitting illegal levels of pollution, and many more people have chronic respitatory diseases as a result of companies ignoring the law for their own profit.

There is no real comparison in severity between the two.

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@Peter2 - Cheating emissions tests by the manufacturer is beyond stupid. Having dealt with feral regulations and an technically incompetent agency called the EPA, I would not be surprised if poorly, vague rules are partially to blame. There items in the EPA regulations that are rather vague and when you ask the EPA for clarification you get no answer only a sickening feeling whatever your interpretation is the ferals will say it is wrong. Under Chevron (a Nine Senile stupidity), the agency's interpretation is automatically considered correct even if their reading comprehension is abysmal. So welcome to Club Fed.

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Yet VW was caught detecting tests, and then behaving differently in those tests to normal operation, and it appears Daimler may have been doing the same.

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Anonymous Coward

"It's been reported elseware that 50,000 people in the UK die every year due to cars that shouldn't have passed emissions tests emitting illegal levels of pollution"

And a similar amount die due to people who should not be driving on the roads so why not ban cars altogether?

We put up with a certain "collateral damage" for our modern lifestyle, be it mining deaths or road deaths or whatever deaths

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"It's been reported elseware that 50,000 people in the UK die every year due to cars that shouldn't have passed emissions tests emitting illegal levels of pollution"

It's all relative.

NOX emissions are only a problem in heavily built up areas and in places like the immediate vicinity of the M25 (go 100 metres either side and the levels are fine). The penalty for reducing NOX is increasing CO2/poor mileage.

ECU processing power is thousands of times higher than it was 15 years ago and NOX sensors are 1/100 the cost they were a decade ago. It's perfectly possible to make a car system which sniffs the intake air and switches to low emissions mode when local conditions are getting bad.

That said, around HALF of the NOX emissions in UK cities are from stationary sources, with almost all of that being boilers and almost all of those boilers being pre-1990s installations. There are residential streets in London where NOX levels can be 100 times the legal limit without an operating car in sight, thanks to a couple of these installations. They also tend to be extremely heavy CO emitters.

This is despite the emissions cheating on Euro5/6 vehicles. If car makers had been honest, then boilers would probably be 2/3 to 3/4 of the emissions by now (which demonstrates the laws of diminishing returns quite well - all the fuss about dieselgate and 40-60,000 of the heaviest emitters carry on with no attention paid whatesoever)

Boiler NOX emissions have been regulated since about 2004 but old installations are grandfathered for 20 years. Attempts to persuade owners of these boilers to upgrade (including offering to pay for the work) have been fruitless. It's not a case of them not affording to do it, they actively don't WANT to do it and they're likely to spend significant amounts of money resisting legistlative attempts to force them to change when the grandfathering runs out int he mid 2020s.

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"And a similar amount die due to people who should not be driving on the roads so why not ban cars altogether?"

In the USA perhaps. In the UK the figure attributeable to this is down in the low hundreds.

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Re: Neither

"1792 road deaths in 2016"

How many are down to foreign/unlicensed drivers?

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Unhappy

Oh, Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz

.....{cough}.....{cough)........on second thoughts, don't bother.

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I think they are talking about the SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) aspect where urea is injected to reduce the NOx with the help of a catalyst.

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I suspect the same software that was used by VW. The VW cheating software was provided by Bosch, pretty much the only supplier of car electronics for all German manufacturers. Essentially, the Bosch people programmed the cheating version and gave a copy to VW (and, how it looks, everyone else) with a "but only for testing [wink wink nudge nudge]", with the winking and nudging being enough to keep Bosch legally in the clear.

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"Essentially, the Bosch people programmed the cheating version and gave a copy to VW"

It's a test mode and it's an _essential_ part of the system for development and diagnostic purposes.

As I understand it, when Bosch found out about what was happening it complained pretty loudly to VW and attempted to tip off the regulators.

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Never understood the dieselgate outrage bollocks

Sign of the virtue signalling times I suppose.

I have bought more than one motorbike which had specifically added flat spots in the fueling to meet noise emission regulations. Testing required measurement at something like 30mph second gear and maximum throttle. Big bikes would be slow and quiet a couple of mph either side of 30 in second while being loud and pulling wheelies or spinning tyres everywhere else.

Manufacturers have been following the letter and not the spirit of regulation and standards for decades. Can't say I blame them and the EPA or whoever it is should be the ones criticised for coming up with unrealistic tests that were easy to 'game'.

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Re: Never understood the dieselgate outrage bollocks

The outrage is certainly overblown in the US. As were the fines. But it was an egregious example of flouting the rules and getting away with it.

The interesting aspects of this are as much about the details of what's allowed: clean the exhaust fumes but only in near to ideal conditions*. And no need for the car companies to do anything until after years of legislative procrastination bans become inevitable. The solution will be Cash for Clunksers 2™ with handouts for a new cleaner to be fitted, which will still only have to work on warm days, or a new car. People love the idea of money for nothing or "getting something from their tax" so this will be wildly popular.

Meanwhile the Chinese are working had on all electric vehicles for short journeys like buses — Shenzen has now got 15,000 of the buggers — at purchase prices that will soon undercut diesels.

* which even the courts admit with the OLG Düsseldorf recently stating bluntly that it didn't matter than the tests were a load of cobblers, they are still the correct ones. Nice bit of legal chutzpah!

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Re: Never understood the dieselgate outrage bollocks

Manufacturers have been following the letter and not the spirit of regulation and standards for decades. Can't say I blame them and the EPA or whoever it is should be the ones criticised for coming up with unrealistic tests that were easy to 'game'.

That's the only way they can cover their butts and get listed as compliant. Government agencies pass rules, not guidelines, ideals or targets. A properly run agency would be focused on **end results**, but that would require bureaucrats to be competent and able to think for themselves. Many of these rules are irrelevant and/or not the best solution, but the rules-based agencies prefer to establish those rules, then sit on their duffs and let their underlings report back meaningless numbers.

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Re: Never understood the dieselgate outrage bollocks

Both of you, have an upvote from me.

The rules say that "under condition X the emissions must not exceed Y". So AIUI the cars met the required standards - under condition X they didn't exceed Y emission. The problem is that the standards set don't measure what the regulators want to control - because it's essentially unmeasurable.

It doesn't help that they've made the emissions standards so tight these days that it's not really possible to truly meet them under actual driving conditions.

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Testing irl

Maybe the EPA and other state testers should think about supplementing the normal rolling road test with an occasional, additional, drive-it-round-the-block-for-real test.

I'm sure it is not beyond the current state of the art in engineering technology to create an exhaust emissions analyzer that could collect the results of, say, 20 km of real driving after an initial random drive of, maybe, 20 to 80 km.

Naturally such results will be less reproducible but if they are a million miles off the rolling road results, further investigation can be performed.

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