Tech Journos Link Samsung To Volkswagen, Somehow

On Thursday The Guardian published information linking Samsung to the current Volkswagen emissions fiasco. Samsung is accused of installing a ‘defeat device’ on some televisions that uses less energy during official testing conditions than would be found during real-world use.

“The apparent discrepancy between real-world and test performance of the TVs is reminiscent of the VW scandal that originated in the US last week,” wrote [Arthur Nelson] of The Guardian. This report was based on an unpublished lab test by the research group ComplianTV which found discrepancies between real-world and test performance when measuring power consumption. According to ComplianTV, this is due to the ‘motion lighting’ setting included in some Samsung TVs. Samsung vehemently denies this ‘motion lighting’ saying that it is not a method of cheating the consumption tests.

Typical results recognized during testing. Source
Typical results recognized during testing. Source

Not one to let a good controversy go to waste, the BBC reports a Samsung TV will reduce its power draw shortly after the start of the test. A graph of the power draw of a TV – not explicitly a Samsung television – demonstrating this functionality was found in a PDF of a ComplianTV workshop from last year labeled as, “Typical results recognized during testing” with a decrease in power consumption being a recognized behavior when the appropriate test video was found.

This is not the first time ComplianTV tested a Samsung TV equipped with a ‘motion lighting’ setting. Earlier this year, ComplianTV measured the power consumption of the Samsung UE55H8090 television, and found this TV was compliant with energy regulations. Incredibly, all Samsung TVs listed on the ComplianTV database were found to be compliant with the relevant energy directives.

Samsung’s rebuttal to the Guardian article states the ‘motion lighting’ technology is an ‘out of the box’ feature, active in both the lab and at home. Unlike Volkswagen’s ‘defeat device’ for their diesel engines which is only active during emissions testing, the ‘motion lighting’ technology is active whenever it is enabled in the TV’s settings menu.

Anyone in the US who has shopped for a television in the last four years will have noticed cost-per-year estimates for operating the appliance. This is only an issue if the televisions don’t actually meet that advertised benchmark. Until we see a published study we’re raising our eyebrows at The Guardian, easily one of the most trusted journalistic institutions on the planet, and reserving judgement for Samsung.

The DMCA May Have Allowed Volkswagen to Hide ECU Software From the EPA

A lot of questions have been raised by the recent “dieselgate” scandal. Should automakers be held accountable for ethically questionable actions? Are emissions standards in the United States too restrictive? Are we ever going to stop appending “gate” onto every mildly controversial news story? But, for Hackaday readers, the biggest question is most likely “how did they get away with it?” The answer is probably because of a law a lot of hackers are already familiar with: the DMCA.

If you haven’t seen the news about Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scheme, we’ll get you caught up quickly. In the United States, EPA emissions testing is done in a very specific and predictable way. Using clever ECU software tricks, Volkswagen was able to essentially “detune” the engines of their diesel vehicles when they were being tested by the EPA. This earned them passing marks, while allowing them to provide a less-restrictive ECU profile for the normal driving that buyers would actually experience.

How could they get away with this simple trick when a brief look at the ECU software would have revealed it? Because, they were able to hide under the umbrella of the DMCA. The ECU software is, of course, not intended to be user-accessible, which means that Volkswagen is allowed to lock it down. That, in turn, means that the EPA isn’t allowed to circumvent that security without violating the DMCA and potentially breaking the law. This kept the EPA’s hands tied, and Volkswagen protected. They were only found out because independent testing (that didn’t follow EPA procedure) revealed vastly different emissions levels.

Is your blood boiling yet? Add this to the stack of reasons why the EFF is trying to end the DRM parts of the DMCA.

[via /.]

Ethics in Engineering: Volkswagen’s Diesel Fiasco

Every so often – and usually not under the best of circumstance – the field of engineering as a whole is presented with a teaching moment. Volkswagen is currently embroiled in a huge scandal involving emissions testing of 11 Million diesel cars sold in recent years. It’s a problem that could cost VW dearly, to the tune of eighteen Billion dollars in the US alone, and will, without a doubt, end the careers of more than a few Volkswagen employees. In terms of automotive scandals, this is bigger than Unsafe at Any Speed. This is a bigger scandal than the Ford Pinto’s proclivity to explode. This is engineering history in the making, and an enormously teachable moment for ethics in engineering.

Continue reading “Ethics in Engineering: Volkswagen’s Diesel Fiasco”

Destroy your Volkswagen Touch Adapter for Bluetooth’s Sake

[Mansour]’s Volkswagen Polo has a touch-screen adapter with voice recognition to control a bunch of the car’s features, but he wanted it gone.

Voice control of your car sounds like a great thing, right? Well, the touch adapter blocked other Bluetooth devices from connecting directly to the car, and prevented him from streaming music from his phone while he’s connecting it through the adapter. But if you simply throw the adapter away, the car won’t connect to any Bluetooth devices.

So what options are left? Other than a couple of expensive or complicated options, [Mansour] decided to open up the device and desolder the Bluetooth chip and antenna. Admittedly, it’s not the deepest hack in the world, but we’ve gotta give [Mansour] credit for taking the technology into his own hands.

Disabling unwanted functionality is not uncommon these days. Who hasn’t stuck tape over their laptop’s camera or kept an RFID card in a Faraday wallet? What other devices have you had to “break” in order to make them work for you?

The DIY Open Crank Engine Moped

Anyone can strap a two-stroke engine on a bicycle to create a moped. But [robinhooodvsyou] has created something infinitely more awesome. He’s built an inverted open crank engine on a 10 speed bicycle. (YouTube link)  As the name implies, the engine has no crankcase. The crankshaft, camshaft, and just about everything not in the combustion chamber hangs out in the open where it can be seen and appreciated.

[robinhooodvsyou] started with an air-cooled Volkswagen cylinder. He filled the jug with a piston from a diesel car. Camshaft, flywheel, valves, and magneto are courtesy of an old Briggs and Stratton engine. The cylinder head, crankshaft, pushrods, and the engine frame itself are all homemade.

Being an open crank engine, lubrication is an issue. The crankshaft’s ball bearing is lubricated by some thick oil in a gravity fed cup. Even though the engine is a four-stroke,[robinhooodvsyou] adds some oil to the gas to keep the rings happy. The camshaft and connecting rod use Babbit bearings. While they don’t have an automatic oiling system, they do look pretty well lubricated in the video.

Starting the engine is a breeze. [robinhooodvsyou] created a lever which holds the exhaust valve open. This acts as a compression release. He also has a lever which lifts the entire engine and friction drive off the rear wheel. All one has to do is pedal up to cruising speed, engage the friction drive, then disengage the compression release.

We seriously love this hack. Sure, it’s not a practical vehicle, but it works – and from the looks of the video, it works rather well. The unmuffled pops of that low 4:1 compression engine reminds us of old stationary engines. The only thing we can think to add to [robinhooodvsyou’s] creation is a good set of brakes!

Continue reading “The DIY Open Crank Engine Moped”

Using old phones as an intercom in your VW bus (or anywhere else)

In case you haven’t noticed from my many comments on the subject, I drive a VW bus. It is a 1976 Westfalia camper with sage green paint and green plaid upholstery. I absolutely love it and so does the rest of my family. We go for drives in the country as well as camping regularly. We have found that the kids have a hard time communicating with us while we’re going higher speeds. These things aren’t the quietest automobiles in the world. Pushing this bread loaf shaped hunk of steel down the road with an engine that might top out at 75hp results in wind noise, engine noise, and of course, vibration.

I decided to employ a really old hack to put two functional telephones in the bus so my kids can talk to my wife (or whoever the passenger is) without screaming quite so loud. This hack is extremely easy, fairly cheap, and can be done in just a few minutes. The result is a functional intercom that you could use pretty much anywhere!

Continue reading “Using old phones as an intercom in your VW bus (or anywhere else)”

Hacking your car’s multifunction display


[Steve] has an older third generation VW Golf, and as those who have owned one surely know, the beloved VR6 engine is wonderful but finicky. He says that the VR6 is particularly picky when it comes to oil temperature, so his daily routine involves hitting the MFA switch five times upon starting his car to bring up the oil temp in the display. This obviously gets old after awhile, so he rigged up a small circuit to do the switching for him.

He pulled the gauge cluster from the dash and then located the pins that correspond to the MFA display switch. Using an ATtiny12, he put together a small circuit that toggles the switch for him automatically each time he starts the car. Since his solution uses so few parts, he was easily able to tuck his creation behind the gauge cluster before reinstalling it.

Now each time he gets in his car, he is quickly greeted with the engine’s oil temp without having to fuss with his display.