“We only just need a plausible explanation as to why the emissions are still high!!!” was apparently the note from an unnamed Volkswagen employee to deal with the US regulator querying the actual levels.
You’re probably aware of this scandal where Californian regulators are pursuing Volkswagen (VW) to come clean about the real level of emissions from their vehicles...

Dear Colleagues

“We only just need a plausible explanation as to why the emissions are still high!!!” was apparently the note from an unnamed Volkswagen employee to deal with the US regulator querying the actual levels.

You’re probably aware of this scandal where Californian regulators are pursuing Volkswagen (VW) to come clean about the real level of emissions from their vehicles and who was involved. James Liang – a veteran engineer of over 30 years is apparently one of the key players. Perhaps also a fall-guy. No one can be quite sure at this stage.

The Way to Trick Regulators was Clever – perhaps too Clever
VW admitted a year ago that an estimated 11 million of its cars were designed and built in such a way that they would recognise when the car was undergoing a test for emissions. Cleverly enough, the car engine management software had been written so that when a particular combination of the car’s speed, acceleration and position of the steering wheel (indicating that the car was on a dynamometer for testing purposes), the noxious nitrous oxide pollution would be reduced (presumably at the cost of performance). This would enable VW to dodge the onerous regulations for emissions control and to beat the competition.

What a Great Investigative Team at West Virginia University to uncover this scandal
After concerns were identified by the university team testing the cars; the regulators had to trick the car’s software into believing that it was on the road and not being tested). The emissions were then measured under what the software believed were normal driving conditions and of course, were found to be too high. And then of course the game was over for the engineers and others at Volkswagen.

Pontificating
I don’t intend to pontificate about this but what puzzles me is why an engineer would want to beat tough and persistent regulators throughout the world is beyond me. There wouldn’t be any dramatic improvement to his career and with the number of cars on the road eventually someone would figure this deception out.

A few lessons from this scandal are:

  • Unethical behaviour is eventually exposed. Best to come clean immediately something is wrong and deal with the problem.
  • Always follow Robert De Niro’s advice when considering a test result: When there is any doubt, there is no doubt.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve

Mackay’s Musings – 9th August’16 #612
780, 293 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay