Report: US regulator finds emissions cheat device in some Audi vehicles

Audi cheat device: A German newspaper reported Sunday that regulators with the California Air Resources Board have discovered software in some Audi vehicles that reduces carbon dioxide emissions during testing.

Imelda Medina/Reuters
The logo of a 2016 Audi Q5 2.0 is pictured during the opening of a new plant in San Jose Chiapa, in Puebla state, Mexico in Septermber.

Some Audi vehicles contained software to lower their carbon dioxide emissions under test conditions, according to German weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Bild am Sonntag reports, without naming sources, that the software determined whether a car was being used under laboratory test conditions by detecting whether the steering wheel was turned. If the wheel was turned less than 15 degrees, the software enabled a gear-shifting program that produced less carbon dioxide does than normal road driving.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) reportedly discovered the software last summer, following a lawsuit filed last year against Audi's parent company, Volkswagen, by the US Department of Justice on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency. Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it had installed software on more than 11 million diesel vehicles that deactivated pollution controls, and the lawsuit resulted in a near $15 billion settlement with US regulators and car owners.

The newly discovered Audi emissions cheat software, while reportedly unrelated to the VW scandal, could potentially prove to be a major setback in the company's recovery after the lawsuit. As The Wall Street Journal reports:

It isn’t clear how seriously officials in California and federal officials in Washington view the latest discovery, or whether Volkswagen, under intense regulatory scrutiny around the world, had identified it privately to regulators.

Whatever the case, the discovery threatens fresh anger from officials, investors and car owners just as Volkswagen is wrapping up billions of dollars in settlements with states and owners of diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. and a recall of nearly nine million tainted diesel vehicles in Europe.

Audi reportedly stopped using the software in May 2016, shortly before CARB discovered the system. Several engineers have been suspended in connection with the software.

CARB and Audi both declined to comment on the Bild am Sonntag report, according to Reuters.

This report contains material from Reuters.

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