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Oops, they stepped in it again. VW says Audi cars can distort emissions tests

audi transmission software emissions cheat  a front
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

It isn’t diesels this time. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) discovered a software cheat in an older Audi car with an automatic transmission during the summer. Audi’s parent company Volkswagen Group confirmed the software could produce inaccurate results during emissions testing, Reuters reports.

After two German publications, Bild am Sonntag and Sueddeutsch Zeitung, wrote about the software in the past week, VW responded to Sueddeutsch Zeitung’s Saturday article by email on Sunday, stating, “Adaptive shift programs can lead to incorrect and non-reproducible results” during testing.

More: VW and its U.S. dealers reach proposed settlement over ‘Dieselgate’ scandal

CARB found that when the software detected that the steering wheel was not turned as it would be in normal driving it would lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. So in emissions testing when the car wasn’t being steered the results would be different than when the car was driven on the road. Bild wrote that the software had been used in Audi automobiles with automatic transmissions in Europe for years.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung cited a confidential VW document that indicated specific Audi models with automatic transmissions would shift sooner and in a manner that could lower CO2 emissions. The models and years were not listed.

Adaptive transmissions are designed to balance performance and fuel consumption. “In normal use, these adaptive systems support the driver by adjusting the gear-shifting points to best adapt to each driving situation,” VW wrote.

“Audi has explained the technical backgrounds of adaptive shift programs to the Federal Motor Vehicle Authority KBA and has made available technical information,” VW continued. VW also said it will continue to communicate with the KBA, the agency charged with investigating the Audi issues.

Bild also reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened an investigation on the software cheating matter, according to Reuters, which also stated it had no confirmation from the EPA, VW, or Audi.

The timing of this latest emissions-related issue for the Volkswagen Group is inauspicious.  VW is trying to come to an agreement with both the EPA and CARB on what to do about 85,000 3.0-liter 2009-2015 diesel Audi, Porsche, and VW vehicles with emissions nine times higher than legal levels. The agreement is being sought before a court hearing in San Francisco on November 30.