Which software Let Cars Cheat Emissions Tests

The VW Group is coming under scrutiny from the EPA for equipping 482,000 diesel cars from 2009 until 2015 with software that would only have the cars meet emissions regulations when they were being tested.

When the cars were not in a test environment, the EPA says that the device was turned off and the cars are producing 40 times the pollution they were during the tests when being used on the roads. The defeat device is not something that was described by VW to the EPA before the cars went on sale, which is another violation. Apparently, the device had two modes, with one mode that would detect when the car was being tested and restrict the emissions, and another that detected road driving and would have the car producing far more emissions than during emissions testing.

The EPA says VW admitted that the device existed when they were threatened with not being allowed to sell 2016 model year diesels in the US.

New research from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute indicates that self-driving cars are more frequently involved in accidents than conventional vehicles. For every million miles driven, autonomous cars had an average of 9.1 crashes, compared to 4.1 for conventional vehicles according to data for Google, Delphi, and Audi autonomous vehicles between 2012 and 2015 and the total accident rate of conventional human-piloted vehicles in 2013.

However, this data amounts to 11 total crashes for self-driving cars. All of these involved Google vehicles (which have been undergoing testing for much longer) but most importantly, the self-driving cars were not at fault in any of the accidents.

“One might conclude that self-driving vehicles are more dangerous, but I don’t think the data actually show that right now,” Brandon Schoettle, one of the study’s authors, told NBC. “They appear to be more likely to be involved in crashes in general (though not at fault and always being hit by conventional vehicles), but the injuries that occurred were less severe, and all minor so far.”

Schoettle went on to point out that no fatalities have occurred in accidents involving self-driving vehicles, and there were no severe crashes such as head-on collisions.

The University of Michigan identifies multiple caveats to be considered when drawing conclusions from their data, including the fact that self-driving cars have only traveled 1.2 million miles total, compared to 3 trillion miles travelled by conventional vehicles in the U.S. every year.  Also, self-driving cars have yet to be tested in dangerous driving conditions, such as in the snow.

Though there isn’t enough long-term data to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions about the safety of self-driving cars, it seems possible that they behave differently than conventional drivers, and we humans haven’t adjusted to having them on the road.