Another emissions-cheating software discovered in Audi's automatic transmission

Article by Christian A., on November 8, 2016

It seems that German carmaker Volkswagen Group is running into more trouble in the United States as it has been accused of employing a different cheating software to earn good fuel consumption and emission ratings.

This comes as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) found around four months ago that one of Audi’s automatic transmissions employs a special software that could artificially lower emissions during testing, according to a report by German weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Just recently, Judge Charles R. Breyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted final approval to an agreement that would settle the differences between the carmaker and private plaintiffs affected by the so-called “Dieselgate” scandal that involves its 2.0-liter TDI engine. This agreement – reached between the carmaker, its affiliates entered US Department of Justice (DOJ) and regulatory agencies -- meant that owners could opt for either a buyback or a modification subject to government approval.

In addition, customers whose VW cars are leased are given the opportunity to cancel the lease and return the vehicle to the carmaker. Around 500,000 cars powered by a 2.0-liter diesel engine in the US are affected. It was late 2015 when VW was discovered to have been employing software that helps it evade emissions testing process and make its diesel engines seem cleaner than they actually are. The settlement is expected to cost Volkswagen around $14.7 billion. Bild am Sonntag reported that this Dieselgate scandal might become more extensive.

According to Bild am Sonntag, the cheating software discovered by CARB is different from the one that caused the Dieselgate scandal. This cheating software is used in a certain automatic transmission – the AL 551 gearbox -- of both gasoline- and diesel-powered Audi vehicles. This cheating software could detect whether the steering wheel of the vehicle was turned or not.

When the steering wheel was not turned (normal position) – just like during a laboratory testing – the software would be activated and turns on a gear-shifting program that would emit less carbon dioxide than during typical road driving.

In this program, the gears are switched in a manner in which engine revs are artificially reduced, thereby lowering fuel consumption and emissions. Bild am Sonntag added that if the software detects that the steering wheel was turned -- in any direction -- by over 15 degrees, it would automatically switch off.

The German weekly newspaper disclosed that Audi halted use of the transmission software in May 2016 -- just before CARB discovered the cheating attempt in an older model. To this effect, Audi had suspended several engineers involved in the cheating software. This AL 551 transmission with this cheating software is installed in several hundred thousand cars, including models like the Q5, A6, and A8.

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