Is there science behind the VW scam?

The first time I’ve read about the VolksWagen strategy to bypass emission controls in the US it was from the perspective of business responsibility. People started to wonder how deep into the company is this scamming moral entangled. I honestly don’t care about this, since I always assume huge corporations have no such things as moral, regardless of were they are based. I was however really surprised and interested by the chosen strategy.

VW Scandal

In my mind, if I ever develop a product that doesn’t fulfill the regulations I would try just to bribe the people responsible for the testing. That’s how I’ve always imagined the lobbying; you just write that my cars are good to go and I give you a free 4-wheel vehicle to play with. That’s how I imagine drug tests happen, or how unhealthy food can be found in supermarkets. Of course this was super short-sighted from my side; any independent test would yield contradictory results and I would face terrible consequences.

VolksWagen had a super clever approach; you don’t bribe anyone, you just make your cars behave with a quantum nature. We you look at them, you change the status of the object itself. If you look at the car it will emit just below the upper threshold. If you however drive the car it will accelerate and reach speeds of a powerful, limitless machine. I have to confess that I admire the person who came up with this solution. I even started to wonder how illegal it can be; does the law ask for a limit in emissions while driving, at any moment, in any condition, or just while under test?

I can imagine one engineer facing the issue of his cars not passing the certifications in the US. Struggling to see how to cut them, foreseeing loosing a several billion market in the hands of a Chinese competitor. Suddenly one morning, a young man, perhaps a physicists or another fellow engineer arrives with a crazy idea. I wonder what could have gone through the mind of the person in charge. I imagine the dollar sign popping up in everyone’s eyes up the chain of command.

The news now are about cars; I wonder how many different industries can be exploiting such a weakness in the control system.

And the article that triggered my meaningless wandering in Nature News

Photo | RightBrain Photography

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