— A study conducted by university researchers claims emissions defeat devices used by Volkswagen and allegedly by Fiat Chrysler were created by parts supplier Bosch.
Researchers from Ruhr-Universität in Germany and the University of California San Diego undertook the study that was supported by the European Research Council and by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
The researchers admit they aren't 100 percent positive the Bosch documents they used are authentic, although the papers do contain copyright notices from Bosch. The documents were gathered from a Volkswagen-related website used for repair shops, but the researchers admit none of the documents were handed to them directly by Bosch.
As the largest parts supplier to automakers, Bosch builds and sells engine-management software for diesel emissions systems and uses computer precision to fine-tune the systems. This allegedly helped Volkswagen get by with its emissions cheating for years.
Researchers say the standard way emissions from vehicles are tested in controlled settings has created perfect opportunities for companies to evade laws and cheat the system.
Using modern engine controllers, automakers can build cars to know when those vehicles are undergoing emission tests and alter the behavior of the vehicles to comply with emission standards, all while exceeding them during normal driving.
Researchers point out that while emissions defeat devices used by Volkswagen has brought the issue of cheating to the public’s attention, there have been few details about the nature of the defeat devices and how they affect vehicles.
The study looked at two software emissions defeat devices used on diesel engines, one used by Volkswagen, and the second device that researchers said they found on Fiat Chrysler vehicles. The point of the study was to automatically identify known defeat devices and confirm how they work.
"We tested about 900 firmware images and were able to detect a potential defeat device in more than 400 firmware images spanning eight years." - Bosch study
Researchers determined VW was able to use the devices for years because of how regulatory agencies test vehicles for compliance before they can be offered for sale. In most locations, including the U.S. and Europe, emissions tests are performed on a "dynamometer," a machine that holds the vehicle in place while allowing its tires to freely spin.
Every test in the lab is the same, and this fact provided Volkswagen the ability to know the precise conditions of the test to intentionally alter the behavior of diesel vehicles during the test.
According to the study, researchers believe the complexity of cars today also creates good conditions for automakers to cheat, especially considering a car can contain more than 100 million lines of computer code and 70 electronic control units.
In the past, Bosch said "wild and unfounded" claims were made concerning allegations the company worked with Volkswagen to conceal the illegal software. However, federal prosecutors and multiple lawsuits say there is nothing wild or unfounded about the claims.
In addition to its problems with emissions systems, Bosch has been in court over price-fixing and bid-rigging accusations, and based on the settlements, the accusations were true. A recent case has Bosch agreeing to pay about $33 million to settle lawsuits that allege the company conspired to fix prices on fuel injection systems, starters and windshield wiper components.
And in 2013, Bosch agreed to plead guilty to settle charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice alleging the company conspired to fix prices and rig bids for spark plugs, oxygen sensors and starter motors sold to auto and engine manufacturers.