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Germany Detects Emissions Cheat Software In Audi Models (reuters.com) 93

The German government has accused Audi of cheating emissions tests with its top-end models, marking the first time the company has been accused of such wrongdoing in its home country. Reuters reports: The German Transport Ministry said it has asked Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE) luxury division to recall around 24,000 A7 and A8 models built between 2009 and 2013, about half of which were sold in Germany. The affected Audi models with so-called Euro-5 emission standards emit about twice the legal limit of nitrogen oxides when the steering wheel is turned more than 15 degrees, the ministry said. It is also the first time that Audi's top-of-the-line A8 saloon has been implicated in emissions cheating. VW has said to date that the emissions-control software found in its rigged EA 189 diesel engine does not violate European law. The 80,000 3.0-liter vehicles affected by VW's emissions cheating scandal in the United States included Audi A6, A7 and Q7 models as well as Porsche and VW brand cars. The ministry said it has issued a June 12 deadline for Audi to come up with a comprehensive plan to refit the cars. Ingolstadt-based Audi issued a recall for the 24,000 affected models late on Thursday, some 14,000 of which are registered in Germany, and said software updates will start in July. It will continue to cooperate with Germany's KBA motor vehicle authority, Audi said.
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Germany Detects Emissions Cheat Software In Audi Models

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  • Open Source (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 )

    If only regulators would mandate Open Source firmware for any vehicles traveling on public roads. We could catch emission cheats and self-driving flaws. Puts me out of work, but whatever, it's probably the right thing to do.

    • must as I love open source doing this would expose tons of trade secrets wouldn't it? I suppose patents might render that moot. But then again in a lot of countries software isn't patent-able.
      • must as I love open source doing this would expose tons of trade secrets wouldn't it?

        Perhaps, but it may be the cost of doing business. If it's not acceptable then I guess automakers have to sell off their business and pivot to something else?
        Putting some exceptions to the rules for luxury and high performance(and high tax) would be the obvious compromise. If the luxury tax is high enough and volumes low enough, then you could skip emissions testing entirely and not really have a measurable impact on the environment. If you killed a baby seal for every Bentley that would still only be 15,00

    • Racers, coal rollers and other enthusiasts approve this idea. Anything that makes it easier to make power is good.

      • What if the firmware only boots if cryptographically signed, and your country's government assigned automotive authority was the only one able to sign the firmware? To keep end users for loading environmentally unsound settings for their car? We could make this open source and bad for the end user at the same time.

  • The trigger for the violation was when the steering wheel was turned more than 15 degrees. That seems an odd trigger. It's not like the position of the steering wheel should affect the combustion in any way, nor would it be something a reasonable person would use to start a secret 'less pollution for the testing mode'.

    It seems more like a major coding flaw rather than an intentional cheat. Like someone assumed that a set of values would be inside a range but when the wheel was turned, it gave an out of

    • Keep in mind that there may be other more subtle triggers as well. That is, turning the steering wheel could be any one of a number of triggers that signals the system "Screw the pollution, crank up the POWER!". It may be that turning the wheel just happens to be the simplest and most reliably way to disable the "testing mode" while the car is being tested.

      You're very generous in attributing this to a coding flaw (which, by the way, wouldn't make me feel any better), given the history of obviously intenti

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      they measure emissions by putting the car up on a dyno rack

      the steering wheel never moves, hence it makes it an easy way for the onboard computer to detect if a human is driving (i.e., there are steering wheel inputs), or if the vehicle is undergoing emissions testing (no steering inputs)

      this was a cheat, and it's not the first time things like this are used

      in the past, one company sensed an open door to run in "low emissions" mode...turns out when it's up on the dyno, the doors are normally open, so they c

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Testing is generally done on a dynamometer that is driven by the wheels of the car. If the car is front-wheel drive, you can't turn the steering wheel much without going off the dynamometer. Hence, the car can tell it's not being tested if the steering wheel is never turned much. Sounds like a "test mode" to me.

    • Re: Steering Wheel? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @04:51PM (#54529577) Journal

      When you are testing emissions, you are doing it on a dynamometer - a big rolling drum. The car isn't moving. Thus, there is no reason to steer, and so the steering wheel won't be past 15 degrees either left or right. It's a perfect way to tell if you are testing, or actually driving. When you are on a real road, you are likely to turn the wheel past 15 degrees within the first 15 seconds of motion - pulling out of a parking space, backing out of a driveway, etc.

      This isn't a bug - there is no reason for the steering to inform the tuning if the engine whatsoever. This is a deliberate cheat device.

      • On the one hand, yes, it's a deliberate cheat. This is clearly motivated by a desire to excel in synthetic testing with no real world justification at all. It is clearly the duty of people submitting to the test not to do such things.

        On the other, it is (IMHO, YMMV, $0.02) the duty of the people performing the test to think about these things and perform an analysis as close to the "real world" scenario as possible. That doesn't excuse cheaters one bit to say that this is a laughable "test".

        Moreover, there

    • Re:Steering Wheel? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Thursday June 01, 2017 @04:56PM (#54529623)

      The trigger for the violation was when the steering wheel was turned more than 15 degrees. That seems an odd trigger. It's not like the position of the steering wheel should affect the combustion in any way, nor would it be something a reasonable person would use to start a secret 'less pollution for the testing mode'.

      It seems more like a major coding flaw rather than an intentional cheat. Like someone assumed that a set of values would be inside a range but when the wheel was turned, it gave an out of range reading that confused a computer, resulting in poor pollution control.

      Very different than a 'test mode', that VW clearly used just to intentionally fool government agencies.

      Here's how the VW cheat worked, and how Audi's does as well (aren't they same company?).

      Basically, when you start the engine, it goes into "test mode" or the low pollution mode. There are a bunch of triggers that would take it out of test mode and into "normal high performance" mode. These are triggers that are believed if they occur, the car is not under testing. One of them is steering wheel - during the emissions test, it's not done on a road, but on a dynomometer, There's no reason to turn the wheel while on the dyno so it's assumed if the wheel hasn't moved it's to stay in test mode.

      For Audi, another reason is acoustic management - when a diesel starts up, it makes a heck of a racket. However, if you inject a bit more fuel at start up, it quiets down at the cost of emissions (it's why the VW code references "acoustic management"). Since Audis are considered higher end vehicles, being able to do a nice quiet start is a plus.

      And that's really the essence of the cheat.

  • So, Audi "cheats" emissions when the wheel is turned more than 15 degrees. So bad emissions when parking. Maybe some turns on the road. Almost all driving is done with the wheel nearly straight. You don't do a drag race with the wheel turned, so it wouldn't have improved the feel or numbers in reviews or test drives.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Its disabled for the whole driving session once the wheel is turned once.

    • by pj2541 ( 600359 )

      Almost all driving is done with the wheel nearly straight.

      And all dynamometer testing. Maybe they actually knew what they were doing.

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      Perhaps turning the wheel turns off the test mode for 30 minutes or so?

    • Yeah, because it's super hard to implement a routine like "wheel turned past 15 degrees within two minutes of engine start = disable emissions until engine off"

      You know many people with a mile long driveway that points right at their garage, who drive Audi? That simple logic above would work just fine for detecting a test scenario versus real world driving.

    • Re:But Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @05:01PM (#54529667)

      It doesn't switch back and forth between modes. It starts in their low-emissions mode and then switches to high-emissions mode once they detect that the wheel has turned more than 15 degrees. A car in normal driving conditions would thus trigger the high-emissions mode almost immediately, given that almost every drive begins with having to either get out of a parking space, turn onto a road, or change lanes to rejoin the flow of traffic. But a car that's just spinning its wheels in place so that it can be checked for emissions under controlled conditions? It'll never trigger high-emissions mode.

      As for why they weren't smart enough to make it work like you thought? They couldn't. The low-emissions mode achieves its lower emissions by sacrificing performance. If they sacrificed performance every time they started going in a straight line, people would notice pretty quickly that something was up.

      • If they sacrificed performance every time they started going in a straight line, people would notice pretty quickly that something was up.

        Especially in Germany. My colleague's biggest complain about his A6 is that the cruise control can't be set above 200km/h

  • So long as there are no economic incentives to make cars emissions' cleaner (coming from consumers preferably) and there are only negative economic incentives to meet the emission regulations (lots of design $$ spent up front to make a truly more efficient engine, but then perceived as 'under powered' by the consumers when you go to market) this problem will continue to happen.

    honestly, instead of using the heavy hand of government to force motor companies to meet higher and higher emission standards, wh
    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      honestly, instead of using the heavy hand of government to force motor companies to meet higher and higher emission standards, why not just offer tax incentives/cuts/deductibles to consumers for buying the most 'clean' cars. That way you incentivize consumers to reward companies for buying greener vehicles, and companies feel the need to compete and build the best product.

      The problem with this attitude is that the consumer has no way of knowing whether the vehicle is low emissions, or just cheating, on their own. They have to rely on something that's hopefully objective, which takes us back to testing. If you give consumers an incentive to buy a low emissions vehicle, the manufacturers will figure out a way to meet that demand, and as we've seen with their current willingness to cheat, that doesn't mean that they will necessarily be producing low emissions vehicles.

      The real

      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        I don't know where you work, what your commute is like, and what gas prices are on your area, but in many (most?) places, monthly transit passes are on the order of $50. If you have a remotely long commute, its easy to burn through $50 in a lot of places.

        The biggest problem with mass transit is convenience. You're on their schedule (and often they aren't, so you have to plan a bus or two in advance and waste 15-30 minutes on the other end just in case today is the day the bus is 15 minutes late.) You hav

  • German schools are obviously so bad that cheaters did a really bad job here. I work in Germany for 20y now and I can only confirm that Germans cannot count properly and only move stuff from place to place. This seems to be a common practice at least in SW domain.OC some Germans can count. These run away because of taxes and other disastrous policies of their government. These are not the only feats of engineering Germany can be proud of. I was driving over Rhine recently and was surprised to see a set of s
    • A little trolly.

      But kernel of truth. Germany used to do a good job teaching it's bottom quintile, where America fucks up. No more. They literally _can't_ do arithmetic anymore.

      My entire extended family is German, including a few teachers at various levels. They and the people trying to find new apprentices, don't know what to make of it or do. Kids can't work as apprentice bakers because they can't double recipes.

Bringing computers into the home won't change either one, but may revitalize the corner saloon.

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