Weekly Brief: VW embroiled in emissions cheating software scandal

In this week’s Brief: Volkswagen, Environmental Protection Agency, the Apple Car, The Wall Street Journal, the G7, IBM, Giesecke & Devrient, AvtoVAZ, ERA-GLONASS, State Government of South Australia and Ford.


Software can be the source of powerful connectivity and incredible good in automobiles, leading to less congestion, safer roads and more efficient and interconnected human beings.


It also can lead to grave mistakes and mega scandals that cost their automakers potentially billions of dollars, as Volkswagen learned last week. By now you likely know the news: The German automaker installed illegal software in 11 million of its diesel cars around the globe, thus allowing those cars to falsely pass emissions tests for toxic nitrogen oxides, then turn around and cough exhaust into the environment above the legal limit by a factor of 40.


That’s bad.


How bad? The US Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing billions of dollars in fines, VW has already lost €26 billion in shareholder value, the CEO is gone and things only look to get more bleak from here, with other nations like China potentially tacking on big fines and investigations of their own.


Note bene carmakers: Let’s harness software for the good it can provide, not for shortcuts to marketshare and profits.


In other news, the Apple Car is coming!! In 2019, supposedly. The rumours continue to swirl, although the fact that these come from a respected source like The Wall Street Journal adds some weight to the hype. WSJ reports that Apple has committed to the project, codename Titan, after a year of feasibility studies. The company is shooting for a 2019 roll out date, with plans to triple its 600-person team dedicated to the Apple Car in the coming year.


The transport ministers for the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US) signed a joint declaration in support of automated driving and connected car technologies. The ministers warned that coordinating research and promoting international standardization, along with strict tech regulations and ensuring data protection and cyber security, will be paramount to making sure these technologies arrive to market in a safe manner that allows them to unleash their full potential benefits to society (improved traffic flow, fewer accidents, less polution, etc.). Read the full declaration here.


IBM unveiled a cyber security solution for the auto industry — this a week after Intel did the same thing. An encouraging sign that the era of weekly auto cyber hacking headlines may finally be behind us. IBM’s solution, in partnership with Giesecke & Devrient, protects electronic control units with the “Secure Gateway ECU” to enable a more secure communication within the vehicle and to the backend.


Russian eCall is live, and AvtoVAZ the Russian carmaker that gets to claim first-to-market advantage. AvtoVAZ’s Lada Vesta, a concept car debuted at the Moscow International Automobile Salon in 2014, will hit the streets this month with ERA-GLONASS on-board. That means free emergency response powered by an SOS button on the roof. By the start of 2017, all new vehicles hitting Russian roads will need to be ERA-GLONASS compliant.


Add Australia to the list of pro-autonomous car countries. The State Government of South Australia passed a law that allows driverless car pilots on most public roads, so long as automakers submit plans for government approval and have sufficient insurance to cover potential crashes. The first pilot, on a closed road, kicks off in November.


Finally, Ford opened up its latest connectivity platform, SYNC 3, to the developer community. API access enables developers to take advantage of SYNC’s latest features, including touchscreen control, voice-activation, and push notifications that let apps ping drivers with messages on the in-dash screen.


Get busy, developers.


The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.

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