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Cheating causes test change

Published:Sunday | September 27, 2015 | 9:00 AM
The VW logo.

WASHINGTON (AP)

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Friday that it will launch sweeping changes to the way it tests for diesel emissions, after getting duped by clandestine software in Volkswagen cars for seven years.

In a letter to car manufacturers, the EPA said it will add on-road testing to its regimen, "using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device" similar to the one used by Volkswagen.

The testing would be in addition to the standard emissions test cycles already in place, the EPA said.

VW's sophisticated software allowed its cars to pass tests in the lab and then spew pollution into the atmosphere while on the highway. The changes announced Friday are designed to detect software and other methods automakers might use to rig a test.

"We're actually making sure that this is a one-off," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Friday.

The agency is going to "look at all of the other models aggressively and do the testing we need to make sure there aren't any hidden software devices or other ways they could defeat the emission system," McCarthy said.

The revelations about VW led to unwanted scrutiny for the EPA. Its testing procedures have been criticised for being predictable and outdated, making it relatively easy for VW to cheat.

EPA did not initially uncover the problem. Researchers at West Virginia University did, using on-road testing that EPA did not.

Senator Bill Nelson said he was frustrated that regulatory agencies such as the EPA are failing to protect the public. "Seven years is way too long a time that the EPA has been asleep at the switch," he said.

The VW case has similarities to those involving General Motors' (GM) defective ignition switches and Takata Corp's exploding airbag inflators, where it also took years before those problems were disclosed to consumers, Nelson said.

"When there is this kind of deception, we've got to get these agencies to be able to cut through it and catch it," he said.