defeat device: “a noticeable deviation between bench test results and actual road use”

Volkswagen installed their “defeat device” on 11 million vehicles sold in the U.S. Like other examples of bad management, this was caused by lack of discipline and control. In this case of an industry, it’s the discipline the regulators impose upon the manufacturers. In a large organization’s IT department, this comes down to the discipline management inculcates in the staff. In both cases, it also, possibly more importantly, comes down to the self-discipline self-imposed by designers, engineers, and test staff.

This deception was very deliberate on the part of Volkswagen. According to a letter to VW from the US EPA, VW installed a “switch” which senses when the vehicle was being tested for compliance with EPA emission standards, based on “various inputs including the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, duration of operation, and barometric pressure.”

What is more upsetting about this, besides the deliberate deception, was the fact that Volkswagen has access to the most accurate, most precise instrumentation available, but they chose to mis-use it. Instead of using their excellent tools for good, they chose to use them in a devious way, and now they will pay for it.