After VW Scandal, EPA Will Emission Test Diesel Cars in Real-World Conditions

Ah, the open road.

More than 11 million Volkswagen diesel vehicles were able to game the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions tests by using sneaky software to identify when an assessment was going on—and the EPA doesn’t want to get fooled again. The New York Times reports that the agency will begin conducting a randomized set of tests in real-world conditions rather than labs to make it significantly harder to manipulate results.

Volkswagen is currently the only car maker known to have cheated on emission tests. Before the scandal, the European Union was already planning to switch to road-based assessments in 2017, and now other countries like India, China, and Mexico are mulling the change as well. The EPA’s director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, Christopher Grundler, told the Times that, “Manufacturers have asked us what the test conditions would be, and we’ve told them that they don’t have a need to know. … It will be random.”

Last Monday the EPA published evidence that there are 10,000 more cars equipped with “defeat software” than previously known. Then on Tuesday, Volkswagen announced that an internal investigation had revealed 800,000 gasoline-powered cars that have “irregularities” related to their carbon-dioxide output.

As Volkswagen continues an investigation into what happened internally and who is to blame for the pernicious cheating software, a larger picture of internal corporate politics is starting to emerge. For example, the Times separately reported on Sunday that VW admitted to concerns about some of its gasoline engine cars because of pressure from an engineer/would-be whistleblower.

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller said in a statement last week that, “I have pushed hard for the relentless and comprehensive clarification of events. … This is a painful process, but it is our only alternative.” Painful is the right word for it.