Report: Bosch created software on Volkswagen and FCA diesels accused of emissions cheats

June 9, 2017

You thought Dieselgate was over, right? Volkswagen admitted wrongdoing, it agreed to some massive fines, case closed.

Not so fast.

As many have been saying all along, Volkswagen didn't pull off its dastardly deeds alone. One of its supplier sidekicks, Bosch, has already shelled out $327 million for rigging Audi, Porsche, and VW diesels so they could cheat on emissions tests. 

A new report shifts even more blame to Bosch, insisting that the German supplier took an active role in developing and installing defeat devices that were used, not just on Volkswagen vehicles, but on at least one model from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, too.

The study is entitled How They Did It: An Analysis of Emission Defeat Devices in Modern Automobiles. It was conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany.

The way the team conducted their analysis was clever and more than a little complicated. It focused on a engine control unit (ECU) manufactured by Bosch for use on diesel vehicles. Researchers found that an ECU model known as the EDC 17 was used on Volkswagen vehicles and at least one model from FCA, the Fiat 500X.

By poring over technical documents from Bosch that had been posted to websites for mechanics and tuners, the researchers began to understand how the software Bosch installed on the ECU worked. The documents showed that the ECU software could determine when a vehicle was being subjected to an emissions test. More importantly, the documents appear to suggest ways to leverage that software to allow cars to cheat on such tests.

The team also learned that the defeat devices that Bosch allegedly created for Volkswagen and FCA work differently. The ones employed on Volkswagen models were, in the researchers' words, "arguably the most complex in automotive history." The one used on the diesel Fiat 500X, however, appear to follow a simpler design, activating strict emissions controls when the ECU determines that the car is being tested, then deactivating them 22 minutes later.

(FYI, the diesel 500X crossover isn't sold in the U.S. and thus isn't part of the pending federal lawsuit over FCA diesels. However, the model is sold in Europe, where FCA is also under investigation.)

Engineers and those suffering from insomnia can download a PDF of the report here.

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