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 …

  1. Charles Manning

    Well....

    Somebody's got to take the fall.

    Might as well be a disposable engineer.

    1. JassMan Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Well....

      Interesting that the American CEO, Michael Horn, knew months ago that it was 2 engineers, even before anyone had announced an internal inquiry. Is he clairvoyant or does this smack of a stitch-up?

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Well....

        Engine management software is safety critical - if it goes wrong, uncommanded acceleration for example, it can kill people. If two engineers can put their heads together and make changes that get implemented on production motors, VW have far bigger problems than fiddling their emissions test.

        They can't, of course. Most companies, you can't even apply a manufacturer's patch to the mail server without numerous change committees and fifteen different managers signing off on it. This is just standard CYA attempts by C-level execs, which (hopefully) won't fool the folks investigating this problem.

        1. Charles Manning

          Re: Well....

          " If two engineers can put their heads together and make changes that get implemented on production motors..."

          Prepared to be shocked... I would not be surprised at all.

          I've been developing embedded systems for over 30 years, much of that as a consultant, so I've seen what goes on in scores of embedded systems projects.

          I've seen a few (let's just say more than one) project where one engineer holds sway over critical bodies of code that could kill people, be that in moving machinery, vehicle control or power systems.

          It is comforting for the Great Unwashed believe the embedded systems that go into safety critical devices are thoroughly audited and double or quadruple checked. Not so. At the end of the day it just boils down to one or two engineers touching the code that goes into these safety critical systems.

          Of course a whole lot of paperwork gets generated to provide certification, but that's done the same way as your tax bloke prepares your accounts to give to the tax department.

          It's pretty easy to see what could have happened here without needing a from-the-top conspiracy. Here's a perfectly plausible scenario:

          The team working on ECU firmware get some feedback from the QA folk that the latest version of software they're testing has slightly worse emissions than the last version. Last time it was just passing, this time it is just failing.

          One of the engineers is assigned to look at this.... Now the emissions test in the QA process has been an ongoing thorn in the teams side forever, so our clever-clogs engineer decides to deal to the problem forever and puts in a few lines of if... then ... to detect an emissions, test sneakily tweak the engine and get the monkey off their back.

          The "fix" works. QA never complains again and eventually the software goes live.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Well....

            >Prepared to be shocked... I would not be surprised at all.

            Totally agree!

            It was standard practice years back, in one UK company, for the software engineers responsible for military helicopter engine management to "ride in the back" during testing, anyone who has seen the inside of the Lynx helicopter would know once you've put in a 1980's test rig there ain't much room left...

            For one of the fail-safe systems I was the software lead on, that got used by millions of people over nearly 20 years (yes you didn't read about it because it worked!) had a team of three responsible for the OS and hence everyone knew who they were, by name....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Well....

            "Prepared to be shocked... I would not be surprised at all.

            I've been developing embedded systems for over 30 years"

            Same here (different part of the safety critical industry). Back then, things were a lot simpler, a lot less shiny, and in general a lot more trustworthy (at least where I was working, which had its own unique afaik way of doing things). Nowadays, if it's not shiny it can't be good, regardless of how much unnecessary and untrustworthy complexity has been introduced over the years, and how poor the product is functionally in comparison with its decades-old predecessors.

            But the industry regulator seems to think this state of things is OK so it must be OK, right? All the process-focused audit-trail boxes are ticked so nothing can go wrong, can it. Les Hatton may disagree but what does he know.

            Or do workers with a clue just shut up because they need the money, and there's no place in the company for people who "are not team players".

            Here's a 1997 paper from (now Professor) Jonathon Bowen on The Ethics of Safety Critical Systems. Struck me as interesting reading:

            http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.24.8027&rep=rep1&type=pdf

            The names Feynman (Challenger inquiry) and Haddon-Cave (Nimrod inquiry and several others) also come into this picture somewhere.

            1. The Boojum

              Re: Well....

              Looks a fascinating read, although probably not on the list of career-enhancing documentation.

              I'm still wondering whether the Greek bits are the author being pompous or decidedly tongue in cheek.

            2. kmac499

              Re: Well....

              I've written software for a few years to earn a crust. Nearly all Management Info stuff so no safety critical risk of any form.

              I have no formal qualifications just, on the job training and experience, which may not be adequate or relevant to my next job.

              My brother retrained to become an electrician later in life. He is regulalry tested certified and the scope of work he can do is constrained by his training.

              I could be hired to help write the software for a piece of medical equipment that could kill someone if the software is wrong. But legally only someone like my brother could wire up the plug in the hospital..

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. 404 Silver badge

            Re: Well....

            Re: Charles Manning - Wondering why all the downvotes because you happen to be correct... upvoted to counter ;)

            <deepthinking>

            The older I get, the more convinced I am that there is no 'inner child' people talk about - people never grow up, they simply get experience to know what works, what doesn't, & how can they benefit from it. Your priorities don't really change, you may have people to be responsible for, but you're still essentially the same kid you always were - just older. All the stupid human tricks you, your friends, the people you know, the people you read about... think about it, everybody you ever knew and the dumb shit they did/have done/are currently doing - that's the exact same kind of people at Volkswagen or any other company, government, etc, but with power to create larger fuckups that affect/kill more people.

            That's pretty fucking scary, to think about all the idiots you know and realize there are at least one or more like them in a position of power somewhere that can kill us all...

            </deepthinking>

            1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

              Re: Well....

              @404 - Also, as we got older one might realize that some of the stupidity done when younger should have killed us before we hit 25 definite before 30.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Well....

                > Also, as we got older one might realize that some of the stupidity done when younger should have killed us before we hit 25 definite before 30.

                Exactly my feelings! I honestly never thought I would make it to 30. Was pretty amazed when I did. Wonder how many lives I've got left. :-(

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Well....

                  Fuck - I'm 48 and didn't expect / want to be here after the age of 40...

                  But it's not too bad :)

            2. Evoflash

              Re: Well....

              @404 love it. I often get to thinking about people on Friday afternoons at 4:30pm - they just want to go home and have a few beers or maybe whatever else they do....but work? pfffft...

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Well....

              How stupid is the average person?

              50% of people are more stupid than that.

          5. Evoflash

            Re: Well....

            The gains made by such a defeat device are too big to go unknown or unnoticed by chiefs and technical leaders. Opportunity to avoid (high) cost of urea after-treatment is massive.

            My personal opinion is that a series of chiefs managed to convince themselves in a meeting room that what they were doing was in the strictest terms not disagreeable.

        2. Rod 6

          Re: Well....

          Very often software decides if we live or die. For life critical systems it is only fair that the source code be available for customers to inspect.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Well....

            " For life critical systems it is only fair that the source code be available for customers to inspect."

            The source code does nothing on its own. The tool chain(s) used to make the source code executable should presumably also be auditable... and so on.

      2. goldcd

        I think of this more as a sweet retirement opportunity.

        <I'm Spartacus>

        I did it, it was all me, can I please be showered with cash to legally prevent me ever opening my mouth?</I'm...>

      3. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Well....

        @JassMan

        Yes, there's something rotten in Denmark, and they can smell it in Germany...

        Still employed senior management team: Mr. Horn, we just a bit nervous about how we're handling this cheat-ware-gate. Some of us like working here.

        Horn: I told you we have this all worked out... Just stick to the script!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well....

        Speaking entirely hypothetically, were I a corrupt company executive trying to cover this up, the method would be to get some midlevel employees to cop to it all, then chuck them a few millions in a Swiss bank account. Problem solved.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well....

      A pity Humphry Bogart isn't around to play one of the senior executives for the inevitable Hollywood biopic to mutter the immortal lines in classic film noir style:

      "We need a couple of patsies to take the fall"

      1. Graham Marsden

        @readinthereg - Re: Well....

        > "We need a couple of patsies to take the fall"

        Or, to rephrase the headline: "VW's Audi suspends two scapegoats..."

  2. Adam Jarvis

    Hands Up.

    Would have loved to have been at that meeting, so who wants a Million Pounds as a pay off, to look like your taking the can, for our Billion Pound fuck up.

    15 people will do. Thanks, that was quick.

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Hands Up.

      You actually think they would have offered them money? I'd be surprised if they even offered them lube.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Hands Up.

        The PR fallout from a public unfair dismissal lawsuit and tribunal would be interesting.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Hands Up.

      Or.. in a couple weeks, we'll hear that they apologized as did the managers for failing to realize that the tweak they put in was bad. All will be forgiven and everyone will go back to work.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This kind of thing makes me so mad

    Because the software engineers didn't just suddenly decide to do this...

    This didn't happen by accident. They will have been given a spec, with quite specific inputs for the sensors. This would have to be written, tested and released.

    The software was and is used in multiple cars and brands, each with significantly different engine performance characteristics. I would assume that the software would need to understand how to adjust each of the engines so that they reacted appropriately.

    This also suggests multiple releases of software that would be delivered across businesses. Where there is co-operation across businesses senior people get involved.

    So: lots of people knew. I'd be willing to bet that significant numbers of senior managers knew. Some ass, probably from marketing, probably suggested the idea because it would make the cars look more environmentally friendly. A bigger ass, probably at board level, introduced other VW businesses and car lines to the idea and the contagion spread.

    This is not a developer issue, this is a management issue. Instead of making better cars they decided to cheat. It was then thought such a good idea that they did it across their car and brand range over multiple years. During this time it was thought better to lie to customers and regulators than actually make a car that could meet the emissions levels they claimed to have.

    And the people who are now trying to do the whole "a few bad apples" thing know that it's not true. They just don't care.

    1. Vic

      Re: This kind of thing makes me so mad

      They will have been given a spec, with quite specific inputs for the sensors. This would have to be written, tested and released.

      That's a lovely thought, but really doesn't match reality on many places I've worked...

      Vic.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or it was a quick hack to get the job done & meet an alpha or beta release deadline - and after that manglement never prioritised a fix because the hack was "still working OK". How I hate that phrase - "just make it work, we'll do it properly in the next release".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Or it was a quick hack to get the job done"

      Or, more likely, they were developing the engine management software and had a bonus target linked to various levels of reduction. Either that or they were planning to cash in on a bonus for filing a patent for a "novel method for reducing emissions measured during emissions testing".

      1. The Boojum

        Or, rather than getting a bonus for meeting various targets, it was more likely that they would have fired for not meeting the targets. Heard a story about Ferdinand Piesch in which he promised exactly that. And the same to their successor, presumably ad infinitum.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      @Anonymous Re: Quick hack

      That sounds awfully familiar, too familiar in fact...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: just make it work, we'll do it properly in the next release

      Oh, they used Agile!

    4. Evoflash

      "Or it was a quick hack to get the job done & meet an alpha or beta release deadline - and after that manglement never prioritised a fix"

      No, no, no. This isn't a minor fix. This software implementation means lots of dollars not spent on hardware to clean up emissions. It's a very big deal, and a huge competitive advantage over other car companies. Savings in cost and improved in-field fuel economy mean a double-dipper helping of good news. Think of all of those conversations between car owners about fuel consumption, and the smug VW owner who seemed to get "a bit more" out of a tank than anyone else, quickly followed by the classic "well that's German engineering for you".

      No, this isn't a minor hack to get through a gateway. This is more like the comment "This kind of thing makes me so mad" says. It's a big deal.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    85'000 vehicles in toto?

    But that's not even enough to adequately gas a largish city even if they were all meeting in the same one?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 85'000 vehicles in toto?

      Maybe, but the more improtant (political) point is that its 85,000 cars that aren't from good ole USofA manufacturers and bigging up the emissions violations they can kill any growth in the currently tiny diesel US car market for the foreseeable future which is only being addressed by European imports.

      Was recently in California (n.b.Bay Area air quality spokesperson said that current major cause of low air quality is wood burning stoves) and heard a surprising balanced news item where "expert" giving opinion basically said the real problem was Europe had concentrated on global warming and thus considered CO2 as item to reduce while in US they were concentrated on air quality so NOx was the big deal.

      1. JC_

        Re: 85'000 vehicles in toto?

        Maybe, but the more improtant (political) point is that its 85,000 cars that aren't from good ole USofA manufacturers

        About half of US auto sales are from imports and VW even have a factory in Tennessee, so nationalism doesn't seem a likely cause. The simplest explanation is that VW tried to sell an unsuitable product - diesel-engined small vehicles - and cheated so egregiously they had to be prosecuted.

        On the other hand, German civil servants have done there damnedest to fudge EU standards so that their national champions can keep selling smoke-boxes, "calling for the tests to be conducted on sloping downhill tracks, and for allowing manufacturers to declare a final CO2 value 4% lower than the one measured"

        Regarding the air-quality vs. CO2 trade-off; thinking locally it's understandable to prioritise the air-quality, although ideally both could be helped by promoting electric vehicles and built-environments suited to walking & cycling.

  6. John Tserkezis

    Top story tonight: "VW's Audi suspends two engineers"

    Meanwhile, their manager(s) gets a pay rise, a christmas bonus and a pat on the back.

    Good work all 'round guys, and it only cost us two engineers!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Maybe you didn't quite make it to the end of the article before diving into the comments section...

      "The suspensions takes the number of VW employees known to have been put on leave to eight; the other six are understood to be senior managers."

      1. silent_count

        So the follow-up question is whether those unspecified "senior managers" were work experience students or cleaning contractors.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        No, because VW suspended two engineers a month or so back and Audi has as well just now, so that makes four suspended engineers according to my admittedly limited maths skills.

        Unless they're the same two rogue software engineers that have gone from company to company in the group and fiddled with the software. And given the stories that VW are expecting us to swallow then that might just be the case.

  7. David Roberts Silver badge
    FAIL

    Interesting justification.

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

    So presumably if the car is not actively driving and has been recently turned on (therefore warming up at the start of the journey and not idling in traffic) the mixture is leaned out to use minimal fuel and speed warming up. Normal settings once active driving detected.

    Oops! The test was not specific enough. The regulatory testing schedule accidentally triggers this mode as well!

    However the board members were not convinced the regulators would buy this. I wonder how those two engineers were selected?

    1. Mpeler
      Flame

      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. It could well be that the lean mix is intended for short idles (or perhaps discreet warm-ups on winter mornings).

      There are now start-stop motor control systems, but they require a sturdier battery and charging system (particularly in winter) and do take a mechanical toll on the engine, depending on how long it's stopped, etc.

      Considering that Bosch makes a lot of the injection hardware and controllers, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot more companies that might get caught out. There are test organizations in Germany looking at just that.

      Also, the standards that "aren't being met" are close to impossible to meet, and although recently approved by the idiots in Brussels (who usually don't have a technical clue), are still the object of heated (sorry) discussion amongst engineers. Pi$$ in the tank, aka AdBlue, is not the friendliest or most economical solution, but so far it's just about the only one.

      Seems like someone wants to kill diesels off - the US never has liked diesel cars. Wonder if Tesla's overstating its horsepower will get as much attention?

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Interesting justification.

        That may be so, but I generally need to warm up the car in winter to have any chance of being able to see out the window.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            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.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            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.

            1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge
              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.

          3. jonathanb Silver badge

            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.

          4. hplasm Silver badge
            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...

            1. TheOtherHobbes

              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.

          5. Test Man

            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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                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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          7. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. gnasher729 Silver badge

          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).

        3. Mpeler
          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...

        4. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Interesting justification. @jonathanb

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

        5. The Travelling Dangleberries

          Re: Interesting justification.

          @jonathanb

          DEFA is your friend.

      2. Andrew Taylor 1

        Re: Interesting justification.

        Totally agree & it was interesting that this story broke in the US immediately after one of the US car giants, I think it was GM, reached a settlement with the US Debt of Justice to avoid charges for selling cars with killer ignition switches for over 10 years. Of course there's no european investigation now as VW are the designated fall guys to protect US interests.

      3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Interesting justification.

        Considering that Bosch makes a lot of the injection hardware and controllers, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot more companies that might get caught out.

        There were emails from Bosch released/leaked in which Bosch told VW that what VW were doing was a bit naughty.

      4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Interesting justification.

        Also, the standards that "aren't being met" are close to impossible to meet

        Sometimes, a challenging target has to be set to drive research into a problem.

        "Necessity is the mother of all invention."

      5. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Interesting justification.

        > Also, the standards that "aren't being met" are close to impossible to meet

        If true by some law of physics then all manufacturers will be equally affected. When the sorts of vehicles demanded by the population become unavailable, the standards would be relaxed.

        I don't know enough about the engineering to comment on whether it is or isn't possible to hit the targets, but here is what I do know.

        1. Cars are heavily judged by consumers on high power and low fuel consumption.

        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.

        Left to market forces alone, NOx reduction will be sacrificed to give better numbers that people actually care about. The problem of NOx is externalised. That is where regulation is required.

        1. 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.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          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

          1. 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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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.

      6. midcapwarrior

        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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Mpeler
      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

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Someone***

      @AC Sounds like Feynman's line:

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

    3. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      > *** 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

  9. oldtaku
    Facepalm

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

  10. clocKwize

    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".

  11. Snowy
    Joke

    I wonder if...

    The engineers are called Colt Seavers and Howie Munson.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if...

      +1

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

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        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 ;-}

  12. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    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.

  13. calumg
    Coat

    Payout?

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

  14. Uberseehandel

    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.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Little Napolean casts a long shadow

      "with VW would advice their " advise

      1. Uberseehandel

        Re: Little Napolean casts a long shadow

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

    2. Mpeler
      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...

  15. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
    Happy

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

    1. Uberseehandel

      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.

  16. david 12 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.

  17. Tom 7 Silver badge

    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.

  18. 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.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. banalyzer

    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.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      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.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. regadpellagru
    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 !"

  22. Ilmarinen
    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

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  23. Cincinnataroo

    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 .

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a load of wank!

    Why are we even using diesel as a fuel for cars? - This has to be the fundamental question. Religious green fuckwittery, smoke and mirrors. I'd prefer to drive a petrol car rather than an oil burner and the particulates it produces. London is suffering with smog caused by crappy diesel engines.

    We let the fucktards steer us down the wrong road towards diesel, now there is a political U-Turn and I guess we are going to be hit with another tax-in-kind for driving diesel cars.

    Environmental Jihaadists need to be exterminated.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a load of wank!

      "London is suffering with smog caused by crappy diesel engines."

      And the worst offenders are badly maintained heavy commercial vehicles which would have been prohibited from most of London if the GLC's HGV ban had ever been implemented properly.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    A fine example of key man risk

    See what happened there? ('Key' as in 'vital part of', and 'key' as in 'car key', so one word, two meanings and both pertinent to the story, leading to an increased opportunity for humour as readers set up a small internal conflict wondering which meaning I was using, then realising I actually, in a clever way, meant both, thus strengthening the dichotomy of the... Etc... Etc...)

  26. kain preacher Silver badge

    If Bosch an external company new, then so did management. To say other wise is either and you think I'm stupid. What you think Bosch was only talking to the engineers and not their bosses?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not VW engineers!

    It's the Sontaran Stratagem

  28. Yag
    FAIL

    Found the name of the engineers...

    Poor Herr Sünden and Herr Bock.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The two engineers were paid millions ....

    ... By GM and Ford...

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: The two engineers were paid millions ....

      Easy there, tiger!

  30. lansalot

    All well and good except..

    Saw an American senator (I think) who was a former engineer, and on some committee who said that if such advances had been made that gave significantly better emissions, and/or performance, then it would be quite the discovery. The sort of thing that any responsible corporation would rush to patent.

    So the question isn't "how come nobody except the dodgy engineers knew", but "how come VAG were so uninterested in their awesome technical advances that they somehow didn't patent it"?

    Unless of course, they're lying....

  31. PassiveSmoking
    Unhappy

    Scapegoating!

    It's a thing!

  32. Tubz

    I see VW AUdi now have their sacrificial lambs, I hope they are getting big payoffs for taking the blame and an ever bigger clause saying they don't get any jail time or the deal is off !

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As usual The Inkwell spins the story for maximum $$$ effect

    As the editor of this story was advised weeks ago but refused to print, the 3.0L VW/Audi/Porsche V-6 Diesel engine was cleared by the German motor authority KBA of any illegal "defeat device" or improper software after an extensive investigation. (NOTE: The KBA is conducting an extensive investigation into all VW gas and Diesel engines and has currently mandated a 2.4 million car recall to fix emissions software issues on the EA 189 series four cyl. Diesel engines).

    The U.S. EPA was informed that there were no violations in the V-6 3.0L Diesel engine early on. The EPA however rushed to judgment and a week after announcing that the EA 189 series four cyl. engines had a "defeat device" and illegal test detection code, the EPA made headlines by claiming the VW/Audi/Porsche 3.0L V-6 Diesel engine also contain a "defeat device". (It does NOT and the EPA website proves this by their own definition of a defeat device). When it was explained to the EPA that what they deemed to be a "defeat device" was in fact a high temp CAT cleaning cycled used by many Diesel car makers and that it is completely legal, the EPA was dumbfounded. With the EPA not being able to recognize a std. industry CAT cleaning cycle - which by the way lowers exhaust emissions lower than required, (a good thing), the EPA had to now explain how they could get it so wrong on the VW/Audi/Porsche 3.0K V-6 Diesel engine - even after VW/Audi explained to the EPA folks how the emissions system functions. The engine appears to function properly and to be compliant with EPA emissions regulations according to knowledgeable industry experts and independent regulators.

    The EPA is like God when it comes to enforcement of emissions regs in the U.S. As such they do not want to be viewed as incompetent or political when many in industry feel they are both. As such if VW were to admit to violations of the EPA regs on the 3.0L V-6 Diesel engines even when the engines actually meet all emissions regs and do not contain a "defeat device", the EPA could save face and VW could probably save billions in fines from the EPA. Do you see what is possible here?

    So even though the EA 189 four cyl. Diesel engine's excessive NOx was not a big deal at all to the environment, (HD vehicles are allowed over twice the emissions of "lightweight" U.S. vehicles, less than 8,500 gross pounds and there are many times more HD Diesel powered vehicles in the U.S. than autos), the EPA/CARB and media have painted a distorted picture that the slight excessive emissions was some how the most grievous evil known to man. Think $$$$ for the EPA, siren chasers, disgruntled VW owner's, etc. as they all line up to cash in on the unacceptable programming violations of a few engineers and programmers at VW who violated law by writing improper ECU code in the four cyl. but NOT in the 3.0L V-6 Diesel engines.

    The bottom line is the excessive exhaust emissions on any of the modern clean Diesel VW engines is trivial and far lower than clean Diesel engine trucks have been allowed and continue to emit. The reason being that there is no real justification for the obsessively low NOx and CO emissions that are being forced on Diesel auto owners. The intent in the U.S. is to sell electric vehicles (EVs), and prevent consumption of far more practical and cost effective clean Diesel autos as used by the rest of the world. The POT Head of the U.S., POTUS has made it his mission to fleece tax payers and fill the bank accounts of some pretty unscrupulous characters is the push to sell EVs at any cost to consumers and tax payers such as with $7,500 tax credits and other incentives.

    The auto companies have no choice but to go along with this insane decree by the POT head as the EPA and said POTUS have decreed that all auto makers selling autos in the U.S. from 2015 onward must meet a absurd 54.5 mpg CAFE in the EPA mpg test. Few engines will ever be able to meet this unreasonable and impractical decree pulled from the orifice of the POT head. As such an auto buyer's world is going to turn upside down as the EU wants to impose a similar misguided mpg mandate. The U.S. 54.5 mpg CAFE is currently raising car sticker prices by thousands of dollars per year to work towards compliance of a outrageous mpg decree that has no basis in science, what so ever. If you want the truth on this deception do a web search and read what experts say.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As usual The Inkwell spins the story for maximum $$$ effect

      " If you want the truth on this deception do a web search and read what experts say."

      Who are the experts and who are the plausible-looking spinners (Detroit or otherwise)?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As usual The Inkwell spins the story for maximum $$$ effect

        The experts which you could find if you were not so lazy... include the German motor authority KBA and independent ICE engineers who have examined the VW 3.0L V-6 Diesel engines and found they do not contain a defeat device nor illegal software code. The spinning is being done by many in the media who have failed to report all the facts and who conspire to promote a mob mentality over a trivial exhaust emissions violation. Statistically the excess exhaust emissions by all of the VW Diesel engines world wide doesn't amount to a tangible quantity of pollutant.

        For reference clean Diesel HD trucks in the U.S. out number Diesel powered cars by a factor of at least 4. These trucks which are the cleanest in the world due to U.S. EPA regulations emit at a minimum, 140 times the volume of exhaust emissions annually compared to all Diesel powered passenger vehicles on the roadways of the U.S. Just one year's legal exhaust emissions from clean Diesel trucks in the U.S., which truly are clean, is magnitudes greater than all Diesel passenger cars combined world wide.

        The big brouhaha over the minute excess exhaust emissions is absurd. Update the software, fine VW appropriately, investigate other auto makers and get on with life. The intent of the EPA to persecute VW for such a trivial issue is appalling, IMO and detrimental to millions of auto employees, consumers, car distributors, parts suppliers, etc. Everyone associated with VW will be negatively impacted by the excessive and vindictive actions of the EPA.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: anonymous coward

      I've added a note to say the German watchdog doesn't have a problem with the German-designed V6 engine. Simple.

      C.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet the emmissiobs scandal is retaliation for the EU's new anti snooping laws causing so much grief for the US...

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