The technology and transportation industries were rocked last fall when German automaker Volkswagen–parent company to several auto brands, including Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat–was caught using proprietary software that would “turn off” the emissions standards on their diesel models if the vehicle’s system detected an electronic test. That essentially meant a fully-automated cheat that let the automaker meet or exceed government standards for vehicle emissions. To date, VW has admitted to installing this software on 11 million cars, which has resulted in sanctions, lawsuits, and talk of criminal penalties for the parties involved.
But further investigations into the scandal have uncovered an even more alarming fact about the software: it’s been around for years… almost seventeen years, in fact.
It turns out that Audi developed this software in 1999 for its parent company, but at the time it was simply a way to turn off certain engine functions without a specified reason (like the need to detect some kind of scanning and defeat it). According to further news coming out in a report later today, VW executives weren’t concerned with the software until years later when their cars were incapable of meeting the emissions restrictions. The timeline seems to show that VW started installing the Audi-made software in 2005, which could result in far more vehicles than the 11 million that executives have originally admitted to.
Of course, Volkwagen officials aren’t talking, claiming the need for silence until all litigation is resolved. Apart from the individual lawsuits, the company also faces the expense of reaching an agreement on what to do about the vehicles that are already on the roads and yet do not meet various government restrictions on how much damage they’re allowed to do to the environment.