September 22, 2015

Would You Test Software Designed To Cheat On Tests?

Das Cheat?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Administration announced Friday that the Volkswagen AG had surreptitiously equipped its diesel vehicles with software designed to recognize when those products were being tested on a dynamometer, essentially an automotive treadmill. In such a situation, the full complement of emissions controls systems would operate at their maximum, bringing the vehicles into compliance with U.S. - and even tougher California - emissions standards.

But once the testing would be completed, according to the EPA, the vehicles would revert to a different mode, effectively allowing emissions levels to increase by as much as 40 times.

  • Volkswagen AG admitted that it built “defeat device” software into its diesel cars from 2009 to 2015 that automatically cheated on U.S. air-pollution tests
  • Software is built into 11 million vehicles worldwide
  • It could cost VW around $7.2 billion to fix the cars
  • Volkswagen's CEO resigned due to the scandal
  • VW designed the software to have the 3.0-liter engine run on two modes: “temperature conditioning” – the cheating mode – and “normal mode.”
  • The car reverted to normal mode “exactly one second” after the software detected that EPA testing conditions had stopped
  • VW has blamed a few rogue engineers for the scheme

It's pretty hard to believe "a few rogue engineers" would concoct and execute a scheme like this that, if discovered, could have catastrophic repercussions for the company. 

Imagine you worked for VW (or were a contractor), and were assigned to test this "defeat device" code. How would you feel? And how would you feel now that it's public knowledge?

See also:


Apparently, VW's cheating was worse than originally reported, and extends to some Audi and Porsche models as well.

The EPA, California Air Resources Board and Environment Canada discovered the additional cheating while testing Volkswagen's vehicles. They have found nothing similar while conducting tests of other car companies.
Volkswagen engineers took a sneaky approach when fitting these vehicles with the "defeat device" software, the EPA alleged.

See Also:

This article originally appeared in my blog: All Things Quality
My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm an experienced Quality Assurance professional.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
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