The news this week about VW rigging their diesel cars to pass emissions test doesn't sound related to that concept. Most reports talk about a "defeat device", but I think its reasonable to say that the assumption for most people would be that its a physical thing attached to the car. It seems that its actually a software device - the way the car's computer balances chemicals in the engine was programmed to act in an unusual way under testing conditions.
For a technology fan, the car industry is a fascinating one to watch at the moment, with transitions on the horizon including the switch to electrical cars (being mainly driven by Tesla), the idea of self-driving cars (mainly driven in public perception by Google), and the very concept of car ownership being challenged by Uber.
Even with all this in mind, the idea that a combustion powered car could be undone – with enormous damage to the manufacturer and the brand – by the way a piece of software was written is just incredible to me.
Horribly oversimplified here, I'm afraid. ↩