German Reporters Uncover More Details About Dieselgate Engine Software

By Jesse Sokolow on 14 March 2016
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DSC_0597German journalists investigating Volkswagen’s use of emissions test-cheating software on some of its diesel models revealed that the automaker may have actually expanded the use of the illegal defeat device at the start of 2015.

Joint reporting by German broadcasters NRD and WDR along with the Süddeutsche Zeitung showed that Volkswagen’s use of such tools continued well after Volkswagen was made aware that officials at the California Air Resources Board were trying to figure out why a study by emissions researchers at West Virginia University found that Volkswagen diesel-powered Jetta and Passat models emitted over 30 times the allowable levels of nitrogen oxide in normal driving despite having passed laboratory tests.

Volkswagen knew about the investigation in mid-2014.

The journalists said that Volkswagen released a software update around the beginning of 2015 that “went undetected by the US authorities.” The update allowed the engine control unit to better recognize whether the car was being driven on a road or whether it was being tested for emissions. The software update would recognize steering wheel movements to make this assessment. If the system determined an emissions test was in progress, the car would reduce its emissions to ensure compliance.

“In the course of the update, the software was refined so that it could even more precisely recognize whether it was being inspected or not,” said Thorsten Holz, professor for IT security at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and an expert consulted by the NDR.

“Following the update, the car no longer erroneously drives in the clean
inspection mode. Instead it operates more frequently in the dirty road mode,” said Felix Domke, a Lübeck-based hacker who the journalists said had in-depth knowledge of VW’s emissions-cheating software.

Volkswagen publicly acknowledged the use of the emissions-cheating software in September of last year.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)