The Current

Volkswagen deception prompts scrutinizing of testing, regulation

The technology under the hood of our cars is too sophisticated for most people to understand it. And as Volkswagen has shown, it can sometimes be a little too smart for its own good. We look at the hard truths the diesel deception proves about software, and trust.
Volkswagen has become synonymous in many consumers' minds with smart technology and precision engineering... until recently. (dave.see, flickr cc)
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In the space of just one week, the reputation Volkswagen had spent decades building up, has been laid low. News that some of their so-called "Clean Diesel" engines were engineered to "out smart" emissions tests... has dirtied the brand's reputation.

Can Volkswagen be cleaned and shined back up again after emissions scandal? (Dan A. Crosley, Flickr cc)
Of the eleven million Volkswagen diesels around the world equipped with so-called defeat devices, the company estimates more than 100,000 are here in Canada.

The episode could make us all think twice about all the sophisticated software and smart technology we live with today  -- and how willing we are to take companies at their word.

Mark Papineau owns a 2014 Volkswagen Golf diesel vehicle. He was in Lachine Quebec. 

Jennifer Lynes is the director of the environment and business program at the University of Waterloo. She used to use Volkswagen as an example of social responsibility in her classes. She also used to have her eye on a clean diesel Volkswagen car. But not so much any more. 

Zeynep Tufekci feels the smarter the technology, the smarter the testing and regulation needs to be. She is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information at the University of North Carolina and she is also a former software programmer. 
 

Are you a Volkswagen diesel owner? Planning to sell your car?

Send us your thoughts in an email. Find us on Facebook, or tweet us @thecurrentCBC

This segment was produced by The Current's Josh Flear, Leif Zapf-Gilje and Vancouver Network Producer Anne Penman. 


There is something ironic in the idea of the Volkswagen brand, in particular, being sullied by a deception on consumers. 

 When the brand first launched in North America in the mid-twentieth century... it did so with a series of advertisements that were radical --- in their honesty.

The VW ads... with simple, black-and-white photographs of the classic "bug", and forthright messages, showed up in the AMC series Mad Men.

In this scene, Don Draper and his fellow ad-men are checking out what may be the most famous of those early VW ads... the one with a picture of a rejected bug, with a one word caption:  "Lemon"