Volkswagen CEO say Dieselgate was the fault of a few Lynndie England "rogue engineers," insists execs not to blame


#1

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#2

I hope the guys got a hell of a sweet payoff. I’d keep my trap shut for a few million, and that’s cheap compared.


#3

Even in the purely hypothetical world where I can sustain something other than withering contempt for this claim; don’t we still have an obvious and egregious problem?

Last I checked, “well, yeah, random software peons can make undetected changes to ECU firmware, happens all the time. I’m pretty sure that we shipped one model year with a couple of easter-eggs that one of the interns added!” is the sort of approach to software development that even quirky indie devs consider unprofessional; never mind stolid teutonic engineering behemoths building life-critical systems.

Again, even if this were true; it seems like another example of the old ‘Nixon dilemma’ that came up with Iran-Contra: either you are guilty as hell; or it was actually your subordinates acting without authorization; in which case you are breathtakingly negligent and dangerously unsuited to managing anything more complex than a lemonade stand. There just isn’t a position that preserves both your innocence and your competence.


#4

If this were GM, I might buy it, but this is Volkswagen.

You expect me to believe the top brass at a german car company is ignorant of what it’s engineers are up to?

I have worked with a few german engineers over the years. If anyone lives up to stereotypes, it’s german engineers. This was well documented and kicked up the chain of command.


#5

Yeah. I’ve worked in ECU systems. In my case planes, not cars - but unless they are developed to substantially less rigorous standards (and I don’t believe that they are), VW are talking utter bullshit. No way would this not get noticed at any software review, software test, system test etc.

This will be documented somewhere in the requirements.


#6

Since VW has publically admitted to cheating the emissions tests, I can’t imagine that the EPA won’t sue VW for environmental damages in the US. If VW’s lawyers are even a little bit smart, they’ll settle out of court with a record-breaking fine to avoid discovery. If they’re not smart, I’ll be popping a lot of corn as their scapegoating falls apart.


#7

Yeah so here’s my take on it. It’s not a software problem no? It’s a hardware problem - an issue with their engines. The software isn’t creating the emissions, the engine is. The hell they don’t know what’s going on in their engines. It’s a CAR COMPANY. They know what emissions their engines are producing.


#8

No way it was just three guys! Maybe at a startup, but not at a corp that’s been around any length of time and has adopted an SDLC. No way.


#9

How does anyone think leadership works this way?

Also @markstephan is right, there is no way they didn’t know the true emissions of their own engines since the engine was tested with catalytic converter outside the vehicle before the software installed on a completed vehicle was ever written. It’s attempting to say there was absolutely no research and development into the actual product and only the UI for mechanics. Ridiculous.


#10

Someone had to drive it around and ensure it wouldn’t kick in when it wasn’t supposed to.

Someone had to put it on the treadmill and test it to see that it would kick in when it was supposed to.

We’re talking several layers of management - possibly across departments. @fuzzyfungus is right when he says


#11

I agree. It would take a monumentally defective quality system to release software/hardware with hacks like that. Multiple individuals must have signed off on not only the finished product and testing, but the planning documentation as well.


#12

Indeed, the rogue engineers realized that VW’s fleet was not going to meet US CAFE standards and EPA regulations unless something was done. The engineers made a fleet-level decision all by themselves, because the executives were too busy spouting jargon and cavorting with expensive hookers and couldn’t be bothered.


#13

Comparing Lynndie England to VW rogue engineers, is, how can I put this politely, interesting. Is there some kind of Abu Graib version of Godwin going on here?

So which rogue VW junior engineer was responsible for Kunduz? Perhaps we should compare it with Ayn Rand or Adam Smith. Or Alfred E. Neuman.


#14

When you throw someone under a bus, you don’t worry about their welfare.


#15

You do if they know where the bodies are buried.


#16


How do they keep a straight face while spouting such bullshit?


#17

The other tricky bit, given the size and duration of the company, is that it seems pretty likely that VW would have people working on improvements to their engine designs, for future models, who would obviously have to be testing the effects of their intended improvements.

Even if they start from scratch on every new design, never iterating(which seems unlikely), it would be only natural for somebody from R&D observe that last year’s engine apparently gets incredible NOx numbers; better than they’ve been able to hit; and go looking for inspiration. More likely, R&D would, at least in part, include testing assorted incremental and partial modificaitons of existing systems looking for areas of improvement.

If they used accurate tests, the R&D team would fairly quickly realize that neither their production engines nor any currently available prototypes could possibly be performing as well as the tests claim; if they were themselves fooled by the defeat firmware, then they’d have to start wondering why none of the changes they tested appeared to cause either improvements or degradation compared to stock.

It’s not as though this engine class was a once-off, with neither predecessors nor anticipated derivative designs; it is at least moderately related to other designs, which means that there would have been a mysteriously radical improvement in NOx emissions without anyone on the chemistry or mechanical engineering side being able to determine how it was made to work.

At least with a once-off product, there is no real need to explain why it works better than a predecessor, or why the revised version is having difficulty performing nearly as well as the original did. Something that is part of a product family doesn’t have that luxury.


#18

Yay! Someone with a factual viewpoint showed up!


#19

So, small talking point. They don’t build the engines, they buy them from Blutech with the understanding it’s their responsibility to manage exhaust emissions to the standards of the markets they are sold in.

But of course they knew exactly what was going on with the engines. Like some have said, any mature software development process will have an audit trail from their source control system.

So, what will we find if they get audited? I’m not so sure, actually. German labor law does dictate some limitations on audit trails for worker protections. You can bet that if they don’t delete everything (and I am sure they are working on it), that execs all the way to the top will be implicated.


#20

Do you have a source for this? afaik VW designs and produces all engines in-house and defines this as a core competence.


eta: do you mean bluetec? This is a trademark/technology developed by Daimler for reducing NOx emissions. For a few years Volkswagen licensed this technology. VW did not by complete engines but used the technology for own aggregates (to the best of my knowledge).