back to article VW's Audi suspends two engineers in air pollution cheatware probe

Volkswagen-owned Audi has suspended two engineers after it emerged the luxury brand's diesel engines had emissions test cheatware installed. In early November, the US government's environmental watchdog accused VW of adding the standards-evading software to its three-litre V6 engines, which have been used in flash Audi and …

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Re: Interesting justification.

"What about a jug of lukewarm/tepid water applied to the windscreen?"

Is the outside air temperature much below zero Celsius? If so, at the rate some cars warm up, the water will refreeze on the windscreen before you have warmed up the car. This is why de-icer isn't always a great idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting justification.

"What about a jug of lukewarm/tepid water applied to the windscreen?

I just did that this very morning. No warmup time, no fumes (well, it is a leccy).

My guess is that you are just lazy and switch on your car via the remote whilst you are scoffing your waffles with maple syrup."

Not all members of this forum live in a country with a mild climate like the UK's. I lived in a place where -40C was common in winter. Pre-warming the engine is essential in such conditions, and anyone stupid enough to pour warm water on the windscreen will end up with a thick layer of ice covering it if it doesn't shatter the screen first.

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Re: Interesting justification.

The problem is that when it is cold, my breath steams up and freezes on the inside of the windscreen.

The remote keyfob for my car only unlocks it. It doesn't turn the engine on.

Don't particularly like waffles, but when I do have them, I eat them with fried egg, not maple syrup.

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Meh

Re: Interesting justification.

"My guess is that you are just lazy and switch on your car via the remote whilst you are scoffing your waffles with maple syrup."

My guess is that one day you'll live somewhere actually cold, and your windscreen will crack in two when you try this. Or, as usually happens if you are lucky, the water will freeze up solid again half a mile down the road...

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Re: Interesting justification.

Independent of "idling" and so on, just after starting your car the engine will be cold for a while, even if you start driving immediately as you should. I was told that with my car during that cold period the diesel engine is run slightly different which means it uses more fuel than absolutely necessary to stay below pollution limits. (And when the engine is warm, they can run it more efficiently and still stay below pollution limits).

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Re: Interesting justification.

"What about a jug of lukewarm/tepid water applied to the windscreen?"

Anyone doing this is the one that is the lazy one. As has already been said, two things will happen:

1. Tepid water may crack the windscreen

2. Lessening the temperature of the water to avoid the above will simply mean it will refreeze the moment you take the car out on the road.

I should know, my dad did the above when I was a kid and it did freeze up a minute up the road. This is in the south of the UK when it was cold/freezing, not in some colder climate country like in the Scandinavian region.

Like a normal person with actual sense, use de-icer.

Problem solved.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: Interesting justification.

I've had a "clear" windscreen refreeze almost instantly in the Southern UK, never mind somewhere cold.

The quick options are either salt water or alcohol, and neither is famous for being good for paintwork.

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Re: Interesting justification.

"Idling to warm up a car is discouraged in Germany (due to the fumes and emissions), and is illegal when stopped at railroad crossings"

So the local cops give out tickets for having your car turned on at a crossing?

Even for Germany that seems hard to believe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting justification.

>Like a normal person with actual sense, use de-icer.

No an intelligent person will simply scrap the ice off, leaving a dry external windscreen - thereby minimising the potential for re-freezing due to wind chill.

The real problem is grease and muck, particularly on the internal surface of the windscreen, which will mist up as it captures moisture, until it has warmed up. Hence why in winter it is always good to regularly clean both sides (of all windows and mirrors) with vinegar in water then dry and polish with scrunched up newspaper (black ink is better than coloured inks) - a task best done when the car is warm and temperatures are above freezing - ie. do it the previous evening when you park up for the night. If temperatures are at freezing or below, simply use neat white spirit on a rag...

Interesting, like others over the years I've used: de-icer spray, ice prevention coatings/sprays, windscreen covers and tepid water and found them all wanting. Also none address the interior windscreen problem.

So I've ended up using the above described method combined with a Ford heated windscreen, for the last 12 years...

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Unhappy

Re: Interesting justification.

"Not all members of this forum live in a country with a mild climate like the UK's. "

My first lesson with screen wash in a colder climate:

1. Do buy screen wash that is advertised as coping down to minus 30°C (or whatever). Think wind chill.

2. Don't add water to it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: heated windscreen

"a Ford heated windscreen, for the last 12 years..."

I had one of those on an Orion leasemobile (F reg, three decades or so ago). One of the best things about that car. Can't understand why no one outside Ford used them much (if at all), so much more effective at de-misting and de-icing than aircon or heater.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting justification.

> Part of the engine warm up software.....

> So presumably if the car is not actively driving and has been recently turned on

The "engine heating" newsspeak quoted in the article could refer to other things than warming up the cylinders of a cold engine. E.g., the various emission control bits, some of which can take an awfully long time to come to an efficient working temperature.

I would not "presume" anything from a news article.

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Pirate

Re: Interesting justification.

That's what "block heaters" ("Standheizung", in Germany) are for.

Too bad they're only around €1000 or so to get put in.

Except for diesels, where most of the kit is already installed (oh, the irony)...

Just remembered, another problem with idling in winter, with the heater on, is the possible influx of Carbon Monoxide into the passenger part of the car. That can get ugly, fast...

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Re: Interesting justification. @jonathanb

That's why they invented electric windscreens... Hell, even the bog standard Ford Focus has one of those...

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Re: Interesting justification.

@jonathanb

DEFA is your friend.

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JC_

Re: Interesting justification.

If true by some law of physics then all manufacturers will be equally affected.

This is the only flaw in your otherwise spot-on post; some manufacturers tried different ways of meeting the regulations, especially by selling petrol-engined cars and/or hybrid transmissions.

This is perhaps the fundamental problem: European manufacturers have committed hugely to a technology - diesels - that just can't meet the necessary standards. Saying 'tough luck' to pedestrians getting asthma and heart-disease isn't acceptable when there are superior alternative technologies in use right now.

They're right up shit creek with regulations now in the public eye, thanks to this scandal, they'll have an awful lot of trouble getting out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting justification.

2. The combination of fuel, air and temperature that maximise the power and minimise fuel consumption are not so great when it comes to NOx.

Not so. NOx is only a problem when you're burning very small quantities of fuel in lots of air, such as when idling. That is done to minimize fuel consuption when you don't need power, such as (for example) during some phases of the unrealistic emissions test cycle.

If they just tuned the cars to give decent power and fuel consumption during normal driving they wouldn't encounter the situation where the cheating was required. But then the eurocrats wouldn't be able to claim that they'd done something useful by imposing standardized tests

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JC_

Re: Interesting justification.

NOx is only a problem when ... when idling ... during normal driving they wouldn't encounter the situation where the cheating was required

In what way is idling not part of normal driving? In the city, that's what cars are doing much of the time.

Imposing standardised tests is rather more useful than non-standardised tests; at least with standards, VW knows what cheating is 'required'. Other manufacturers might attempt to actually meet standards because people's health is important.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting justification.

In what way is idling not part of normal driving? In the city, that's what cars are doing much of the time.

It accounts for a tiny percentage of fuel consumption, so having a fuel consumption test which includes it is not especially useful.

Imposing standardised tests is rather more useful than non-standardised tests

True, but the problem is that politicians care more about being able to say they standardized something than about whether the standard is actually a practical or useful one. A meaningless standard is still meaningless, standard or not. cf straight bananas, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Someone*** once said that "A good engineer is honest to the point of social dysfunction". You can't lie to the Laws of Physics and hope to get away with it.

*** I thought it was Dilbert but a search of the strips doesn't give a relevant hit.

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Angel

Honest engineers

I think this might be the one you're thinking of:

"Engineers don't know how to lie. The truth will be mine"...

http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-10-09

This is good, too:

http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-01-03

and this (buzzword bingo):

http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-02-22

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Someone***

@AC Sounds like Feynman's line:

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."

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> *** I thought it was Dilbert but a search of the strips doesn't give a relevant hit.

It's not this one, but the old ones are the best...

http://dilbert.com/strip/1989-12-05

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Facepalm

Phew, now the culprits have been brought to justice. Any way we can blame them for this at VW too?

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It is definitely bollocks. Devs build what someone above them tell them to build, then there are other people that test it, and other people that sign it off, and other people that ensure that that particular change gets in to a final release build of the software..

Unless they seriously on their own accord snuck it in without anyone noticing for no reason other than thinking they were helping the company but not wanting any credit for it, the story doesn't fly. Even that doesn't make sense.

Maybe nobody considered it would interfere with the regulatory testing, could have been an honest mistake. That still doesn't make it the developers fault. Its a team/company problem, regardless of who done what. Stop pointing the blame at singular people and hold your hands up and say "yeah, we fucked up, sorry".

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Joke

I wonder if...

The engineers are called Colt Seavers and Howie Munson.

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Re: I wonder if...

+1

And I hope their severance pay amounts to oh, say $6,000,000!

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Re: I wonder if...

A down vote for a Lee Majors/Six Million Dollar Man/Fall Guy joke/reply, geeessh.... life is hell here in the forums ;-}

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Charges

If the engineers are a sacrificial lambs for the US EPA, it will be shown by whether they are charged in a criminal suit. I suspect there was a bit of nod, nod, wink, wink for public consumption with VW paying a fine, officially firing a few people with the real issues being swept under the rug. I have suspicious of the whole affair, the US EPA is not known as a particularly competent, apolitical, scientifically meticulous agency.

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Coat

Payout?

I wonder if the engineers in question got a large secret payout to go along with it?

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Little Napolean casts a long shadow

Some years ago, Porsche had an engineer who was responsible for the factory racing program. He was, and remains a man with sociopathic tendencies. Because he is part of the Piech-Porsche cousinage, he was tolerated, but after the development of the 917 race car, he was encouraged to leave, a dangerous man consumed by ambition and his own sense of importance. He went to Audi where he built the brand and rose to the top and valuable engineers were burned along the way. Men like this have to keep destroying decent people in order to keep the rest of the executive team in line.

Little Napoleon rose to the top of the entire VW group, woe betide anybody who challenged him. He demonstrated that he could demand virtually anything, and get it, all it cost was money and engineers, well VW had plenty of both of those. Anybody dealing with VW and its subsidiaries and the people who were running the show became used to the sudden disappearances of capable pleasant hard working bosses over night. Group executives subsumed themselves to groupthink, if they wished to survive, it was worse than the situation at Neutron Jack Welch's GE.

It didn't matter how stupid or unreasonable the idea was, anybody who disagreed was out. Little Napoleon knew that he was and is a monster, to get his silly Bugatti Veyron project completed, he had to go outside VW and appeal to a mega rich motor racing banker to take over the project, because it was 'interesting', in order to bring it to fruition, doing it 'his way', was burning through more engineers that even VW could afford. In the meantime, people who had dealings with VW would advice their own colleagues and friends not to do business with VW, unless they wished to beaten down to a level that over the years the business was no longer profitable, As German colleagues put it VAG negotiate to the third decimal place.

So there was a culture of fear and decent people, and I include Martin Winterkorn amongst them,, learned not to step out of line, no matter how unrealistic the demands that are made upon them. Even apparently decent people learned to behave like monsters to survive.

To add to this hideous culture, governments and scientists must take some responsibility as the notion of diesel passenger cars supported by dishonest definitions of what was harmful in diesel exhaust residues was allowed to dominate a large section of the climate change debate. As cities around the world are now learning, diesel passenger cars are a bad idea and governments need to discourage, not favour them.

Volkswagen needs to change.but it does not need to be destroyed. Lets just stop making small diesel engines. Oddly, about 12/13 years ago I was at a VW Group shindig during the Le Mans 24 Hour race and mentioned to my charming hosts that betting the shop on diesel was a really bad idea, the first reaction of all those i spoke to was to whip round to make sure that nobody was listening and then to refute my statement in slightly dismissive terms.

Given the culture developed by Little Napoleon, I was reminded of the fable of the Emperor's New Clothes.

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Facepalm

Re: Little Napolean casts a long shadow

"with VW would advice their " advise

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Re: Little Napolean casts a long shadow

Thank you for picking up my typo. I'm sorry you had nothing more to contribute.

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Holmes

Re: Little Napolean casts a long shadow

Pardon the pun, but I have to wonder why Piech comes out smelling like a rose in all this.

He was the one obsessed with making VW number one, no matter what the cost.

Having said that, the idiotic EPA (sorry guys and gals, it's MY WATER if it falls on my property) and the equally idiotic greens in Brussels are, as usual, not thinking about reality, feasibility, or economic solutions to these issues. The ADAC (similar to AA or AAA) here in Germany had an article a year or so ago describing the many, many problems in getting both gas and diesel motors to "obey" the EU6 standards.

Another costly solution to a non-existent problem. NOx can be dealt with at the cost of fuel efficiency, but the EPA and Brussels/greens will have none of it, as they want it all.

Before long, they'll force us back to the horse and buggy days. Then we'll not only have to deal with the BS coming out of Brussels and other government "outlets", well have it piled knee-deep in the streets, and exiting, from time to time, the propulsion power in front of us. And that's only 1HP...

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Happy

So I can assume you are not a fan of BMW's management culture?

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I lived in Munich for over a decade and worked with all the leading auto makers in Germany. I had colleagues with family members within the BMW inner circle, but whilst I had friends at Alpina, I was never at ease with the BMW people I came across, I was always conscious of having to watch what I said, and thought, particularly amongst the M Division engineers.

By contrast, I could not have bean better treated than I was in Stuttgart and Ingolstadt. To be fair, I was impressed by Spartanburg SC, but I had previously been visiting Detroit.

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Bronze badge

On what I've read before, and on what I read here, there isn't any "cheatware" "inserted in the code".

The whole code cheats. Or, as this article quotes "in the US, .... the [engine] heating function can probably be considered a defeat device"

There isn't a magic "cheat device" hidden in the code. It just doesn't do what it required to do: maintain emmissions control while in normal running.

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Bosch - did they not supply the parts with the indicted software

and then later tell VW they shouldn't use them cos they wanted to cover their arse.

This suggests to me that the decision to use the software was probably higher up than 'engineer' level though the lesson this teaches you is get a phone with as much memory as you can and leave it in your pocket set to record everything possible.

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Slx

I think in a way of its the death of diesel and a move back to development of very efficient petrol engines in Europe it won't be a bad thing.

What worries me about diesel is the particulate emission if the filtration systems aren't perfectly maintained. In big cities with dry weather this is a major problem for human (and other animal) health.

Petrol has none of those issues and burns cleanly.

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Well I wonder what happens now?

Now that diesel is essentially a busted flush unless you piss on it, will they go back and look at lean burn petrol?

The Marmite Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was pushing LB engines in the 80's page 127 at home and abroad but got over-ruled regarding R&D funds by a Europe that wanted diesel for climate change reasons.

I don't suppose any of those useless, feckless, spineless cretins in charge these days will be spreading Marmite on their toast.

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Re: Well I wonder what happens now?

Now that diesel is essentially a busted flush unless you piss on it, will they go back and look at lean burn petrol?

Lean burn is what got VW into this mess. Lean burn engines -- be they petrol or diesel -- run at higher temperatures than engines burning a richer mixture, and so suffer from more oxidation of atmospheric nitrogen, giving rise to NOx in the emissions.

If the problem of NOx could be overcome there would be no problem with diesel.

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Pirate

Reminds me of a Blackadder episode

"Blackadder: Someone's for the chop. You or me in fact.

Percy: Ah yes.

Blackadder: Let's face facts Perc, it's you !"

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FAIL

Oh do Fcuk off

El Reg bleats " poisonous nitrogen oxide pumped out by the cars"

Quite so - poisonous depends on dose - and which oxide were you talking about?

If this were a significant problem we would be having to swerve around the bodies. Cars (and stuff in general) these days emit hardly anything compared with times before. Just the regulations have become stupidly draconian.

And by retailing guff like this (without the wit that one would expect of something pretending to be a technical rag) you simply reinforce the green activists' "truthiness" and regulators' thirst for more regulation.

So 4/10 - see me.

And yes, we do like our efficient, low emission, diesel cars

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Facepalm

Just because flowers aren't wilting and people aren't keeling over when a diesel car passes it doesn't mean there isn't a problem with them. You're probably too busy chain smoking Woodbine's to listen to the likes of me though.

The inhabitants of this city love it, they do.

Another link.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh do Fcuk off

You seem to have misspelled "fuck", Sir. C after U and no capital F in this instance.

We are all adults here, so if you would like to use less formal language, just go ahead.

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A theory to test.

The more "less capable" people are involved in code, the worse it gets.

So, if the MD / CEO insists on reviewing code (with chance to change it) you may be worse off .

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