OMG, really? How naïve can they be? Defeat devices are as old as emission controls. When computers entered cars some 40 years ago, they soon more or less routinely contained software that turned a car into a clean kitten when on the dyno, and into a pig when on the road. Cheater 1.0 saw that only one axle was turning, and deduced that the car was sitting on a dyno. This was a boon to makers of much more expensive twin roll dynos, which were “much harder to fool,” as a German TUV engineer told me in the last millennium. As technology became more sophisticated, so became the cheater software. In an age where we believe that a car should be smart enough to drive itself, even the dumbest car computer should become suspicious when the vehicle travels at 55 mph while standing still.
Cheating became so prevalent that a “Prohibition of defeat devices” entered the U.S. books in 2007. The rules also say that the EPA “may test or require testing on any vehicle at a designated location, using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device.” It may, but it didn’t.
Finally, a little known group, the International Council on Clean Transportation, did what should have been obvious: Stick a probe into the exhaust pipe, and actually drive the car around the country. In this real world test, “the Jetta exceeded the U.S. nitrogen oxide emissions standard by 15 to 35 times. The Passat was 5 to 20 times the standard,” says Bloomberg. The EPA opened an investigation into Volkswagen more than a year ago. Finally, Volkswagen admitted to be using a defeat device, if they wouldn’t have confessed, the EPA still would be sitting in the dark.
A year ago, tests performed in Europe by the same International Council on Clean Transportation prompted Spiegel Magazine to headline “Diesel cars: Manufacturers cheat about emissions.” Volvo was the biggest oinker. Only BMW was clean. BMW also tested well during the ICCT’s U.S. tests. Today, Germany’s government announced a probe into possible falsifications of emissions data in Europe.