By on November 14, 2016

VW logo

As U.S. and European authorities gear-up for another round of investigations, Volkswagen confirmed Audi did produce cars equipped with software that can distort emission test results. Although VW was careful not to be too committal in its wording, hinting at it being a handy driver’s assist instead of a defeat device.

This must be a great time to be a corporate lawyer.

Reuters reports VW admitted to Audi’s emissions-influencing software, discovered by the California Air Resources Board over the summer.

Last week, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag broke the news that CARB discovered emissions cheating software in an older Audi model unrelated to the device that kicked off last year’s diesel emissions cheating scandal. The news this time wasn’t so much that VW had a new defeat device, but that it kept installing it on Audi vehicles months after the initial emissions scandal became public knowledge.

The Board’s discovery linked the Audi software to an idle steering wheel that altered the shift program in certain Audi models with automatic transmissions. The software essentially allows the car to detect testing conditions and alter the shift pattern to decrease carbon dioxide and nitric oxide output.

In a response published in Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Volkswagen admitted, “Adaptive shift programs can lead to incorrect and non-reproducible results” in a testing environment.

“In normal use, these adaptive systems support the driver by adjusting the gear-shifting points to best adapt to each driving situation.

“Audi has explained the technical backgrounds of adaptive shift programs to the [German] Federal Motor Vehicle Authority and has made available technical information,” VW continued, noting there will be more talks commissioned by the German government and VW will conduct its own investigation.

Interviews include a renewed interest in Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, who will be returning to speak with U.S. law firm Jones Day. Commissioned by the supervisory boards of VW Group and Audi to investigate the diesel-emissions scandal, Jones Day initially gave Stadler a clear bill of health. However, in the wake of a secondary scandal focusing around Audi, Automotive News says the CEO is wanted for more questioning.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also wants a federal judge to allow the agency to take additional testimony from Volkswagen Group over recent allegations the German automaker intentionally destroyed documents relating to the company’s diesel emissions scandal.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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21 Comments on “VW Admits Audi Software ‘Distorts Emissions’ While Also Billing it as a Feature...”


  • avatar
    chuckrs

    From TTAC’s previous post

    “During these conditions the vehicle ran a different shifting program, one that reduced carbon dioxide emissions and overall fuel consumption. Turning the wheel 15 degrees in any direction canceled the program entirely, returning the car to its normal mode for road use.”

    So if you are on a highway, what’s wrong with an adaptation that reduces CO2 and increases fuel efficiency? Should VAG put a algorithm carve out in that reverts to lower efficiency and increased CO2 over a much narrower range of +/- steering angle equivalent to the EPA test? VAG was definitely cheating wrt the diesels, but you’d need to provide a lot more info to persuade me that Audi is doing so here.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      uh, if you’re on a highway, the transmission is probably not shifting much if at all.

      • 0 avatar
        EAF

        Nothing wrong with it Chuck, as long as it meets regulations during “normal mode for road use” as well.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          There’s no “normal mode for road use.” The ideal transmission and ecu, supports the driver intentions.

          Done to perfection, it will minimize fuel consumption when it reads the driver’s mind and realizes minimized consumption is what the driver wants. Then, it will maximize responsiveness, when its mind reading sensors recognize that is what’s on the driver’s mind. During a mileage test, minimized consumption, even to the point of potentially fatality inducing laggyness, is what the driver desires. Something that is very, very rarely the case during most road use.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        New ones do. Or is at least supposed to. Otherwise, they’re over revving on flats and downhills by being geared low enough for uphills.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      In test mode, it up-shifts early and down shifts late, so how is that not a cheat device/code??

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I suppose if the 15° applied to the front wheels, but I’m reading it as 15° of steering wheel input, which is pretty much limited to testing on a dyno. Even at the fronts, you had to get out of a parking place, so this mode will never be seen anywhere on a road. It’s a cheat device, but they *have to* argue it’s not at first. Admitting the obvious truth immediately might be mismanagement of shareholder assets.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    If it really is adaptive shifting then almost every automaker uses a similar strategy with automatics. They will shift sooner when you are puttering around (as in emissions tests), and they hold gears longer when you are cornering and/or driving “enthusiastically.”

    The only thing that would be unusual is if the car never went back to fuel-saving mode.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    As corrupt as I believe VAG is I actually think this software is legitimate. With adaptive shifting there are theoretically an unlimited number of shift patterns, so there has to be one “standard” pattern to apply to the test routine. That, or outlaw adaptive shifting altogether.

    I think this is similar to how carmakers had to have upshift indicators in cars equipped with manuals. Nobody could force you to obey the light and not wind out a gear but those were the shift points the car was tested at.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      These Audis have mode that adapts specifically to the test then adapts specifically to non test mode. Sounds like a cheat to me.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        The problem I have is the information available is like the various parts of an elephant and we are all like the five blind men…..

        If you do have a link with more complete information, that would be great. No snark in asking you to post a link.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          You’re right, we don’t have enough information, but when has that stopped the B&B from speculating? We might actually come up with something that is vindicated later, so I’ll call your “five blind men describing an elephant” analogy, and raise you a “blind squirrel finding some nuts.”

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Yeah waiting around for the release of scientific/legal facts is no fun, but does it take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened here just because you haven’t a clue? ;]

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Well yeah, the car is undergoing a test, so it locks out adaptive shifting and runs on the baseline program. Unless that baseline is so ridiculously programmed that no one would ever use it (not inconceivable since this is VAG we’re talking about) I don’t see any other way to administer the test.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    It could be a legitimate artifact of adaptive shifting if not for two things: (1) failure to revert, and (2) VAG.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    At some point, one has to question VAGs viability in the United States market.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      I’ve been questioning it since Renault, Alfa, and Peugeot left, leaving VW-Audi as undisputed WORST POS sold here. And now on top of that they’ve been cheating the whole time?!

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