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VW and Digital Deception: A Warning to All Smart Product Makers

Posted by Paul Tate on Sep 29, 2015

VW.jpgMartin Winterkorn’s plans for the next few months are going to be very different than he expected. The former CEO of Germany’s Volkswagen, the world’s largest carmaker in 2014 with sales of 10 million vehicles, resigned last week after his company admitted it had ‘cheated’ authorities by fitting millions of its diesel cars with ‘defeat device’ software that deliberately manipulated the results of air quality tests.

Using smart software algorithms and on-board sensors, the deception allowed VW cars to automatically recognise lab test conditions and run in full pollution control mode, so limiting the level of emissions. Driven on the road, this system turns off, resulting in actual levels of pollutants that can be 40 times higher than allowable U.S. limits.

The scientists who first spotted the problem were not a group of highly-funded, publicity-seeking, auto industry analysts. They worked at a small lab in West Virginia University. In 2012 the lab secured a commission from the non-profit International Council on Clean Transportation to test diesel cars on the road. It soon became clear there were significant discrepancies between the figures VW promoted, and real-life driving.

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