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New Emissions Cheat Device Found in Audi Vehicles, German Paper Reports

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Recent reports suggest that the Volkswagen cheat device scandal may have impacted additional vehicles, which could be equipped with software designed to alter emissions during testing. 

Officials from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have recently discovered new cheat device software installed in certain Audi gas and diesel engine vehicles, which lowers carbon dioxide emissions under testing conditions, according to the German newspaper, Bild am Sonntag. The newly found emissions-altering devices are said to be the first discovered by CARB and while similar, are different from last year’s Volkswagen nitrogen oxides cheat device that impacted millions of VW and Audi “Clean Diesel” vehicles sold worldwide.

A Volkswagen recall previously issued over the diesel engine cheat device affected nearly 500,000 vehicles sold in the United States. The problems expanded after the investigation began to also include some 80,000 Audi and Porsche SUV models with bigger 3.0 liter diesel engines. The illegal devices are believed to have been installed in nearly 11 million vehicles across the globe, sparking major concerns about the company’s ethics and business practices.

Bild am Sonntag reports that U.S. regulators from CARB recently discovered a new device in Audi vehicles that emit illegal amounts of carbon dioxide when not under testing conditions.

The report indicates that CARB discovered the cars are equipped with software that is designed to tell whether a vehicle is undergoing emissions testing, by detecting whether the steering wheel is turned. When the software detected that the car was running, but there was no steering wheel activity, it turned on a gear-shifting program that produces less carbon dioxide than normal road driving. However, if the wheel was turned in either direction by more than 15 degrees, the software deactivated the program, creating excessive and potentially illegal levels of carbon dioxide emissions.

Regulators were able to detect the emissions altering software using lab tests that replicated actual highway driving. Technicians at CARB designed the life-like testing program as a defense program after being tricked by Volkswagen vehicles last year when the emissions scandal first went public.

The discovery was made roughly four months ago by CARB, Bild am Sonntag claims. However, the information has not been publicly disclosed by manufacturers or regulators. The number of Audi vehicles that may be equipped with the newly discovered devices is currently unknown.

Volkswagen is still in the process of cleaning up last year’s scandal, in which the automaker admitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September 2015 that  their “clean diesel” vehicles were equipped with software designed to artificially lower emissions during testing, while increasing the level of pollutants released during normal operations.

In September, the Department of Justice announced a Volkswagen TDI diesel settlement, which is expected to cost the company about $15 billion. The deal will require the company to spend $10 billion buying the vehicles back from owners, and another $4.7 billion on mitigating pollution and investing in zero-emission technology. The settlement does not affect Volkswagen lawsuits filed in civil courts by owners throughout the U.S., and does not resolve potential criminal liability the company faces.

Just this past Sunday, Volkswagen said that a German criminal investigation related to the first diesel emissions scandal has now been widened to include Chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch, who is believed to have fully known of the scandals and failed to inform shareholders of the potential financial risks that have cost the company billions.

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