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I’VE LONG ADMIRED German automaker Audi’s slogan, Vorsprung Durch Technik, Advancement Through Technology. Back in the mid-1970s, for example, Audi was one of the first automakers to promote the safety aspects of energy-absorbing structures initially described by Stephen Timoshenko.
Timoshenko is considered the father of modern engineering mechanics. His theory of elasticity is fundamental in today’s automotive crashworthiness exploiting controlled crushability.
Alas, exploitation of another sort–of emission controls–prompts a change in the Audi slogan to Vorsprung Durch Skulduggery.
According to information from Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung and Bild am Sonntag, and The New York Times, November 13, 2016, Audi is suspected of having finagled the CO2 output of gasoline-fueled 3.0-liter A6 and A8 sedans and Q5 and Q7 SUVs during government testing.
This skulduggery follows Volkswagen’s employing “defeat devices” on many diesel-fueled models produced by it, Audi and Porsche between 2009 and 2015. VW AG has fessed up to this earlier transgression and has established a $16.5 billion fund to settle lawsuits with U.S. owners and dealers. See VW’s Diesel Scam for information on this early defeat device.
The Audi scam is conceptually different from VW’s earlier one, but equally duplicitous: Software markedly changes the emissions, fuel economy and performance of the car, depending upon whether it’s being emissions-tested or in ordinary use.
In one sense, this isn’t as environmentally damaging as VW’s earlier cheat. These diesels generated excessive oxides of nitrogen, NOX, one of the traditional three combustion culprits along with HC (unburned hydrocarbons) and CO (poisonous carbon monoxide). By contrast, CO2 is the same stuff we exhale, though Audi’s finagling with CO2 cheats on Euro regulations for this emission, which is equivalent to cheating on U.S. mpg standards.
“Cycle optimization” was the in-house codeword for this deception. In Audi’s case, one manager emailed, “When will the cycle-optimized shifting program be available?… The shifting program should be configured to be 100 percent effective on rollers [the test methodology’s treadmill] but only 0.01 percent for customers.”
Audi’s cycle-optimization swapped the vehicle’s shift patterns between fuel economical (during testing) and performance-oriented (the rest of the time). According to a Minnesota State District Court lawsuit, Audi triggered this cheat by monitoring the car’s steering input. There’s no steering to be done on the emissions-test rollers, so whenever the steering wheel didn’t move more than 15 degrees, the car adopted its cheating strategy.
Accomplishing this is trivially simple, yet duplicitous, clever or combinations thereof, depending upon one’s point of view. Thus, Vorsprung Durch Skulduggery. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016