Marc Andreesen wrote a well known article on how 'software is eating the world' back in 2011. The basic idea 1 was that software is increasingly becoming more important than the hardware it runs on.

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.

  1. Horribly oversimplified here, I'm afraid.