[Ads-l] Phrase of the Year Candidates: "defeat device" "cheat device" "cheat mode"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 12 00:21:06 UTC 2015

The phrases in the subject line have been in use for many years, but
the recent scandal with the Volkswagen Corporation rigging emissions
tests has caused the phrases to achieve much greater prominence.

An article at the Consumer Reports website explained the cheating
mechanism. When a car was tested for emissions by the EPA it was
placed on a dynamometer. During testing only two of the vehicles four
wheels would spin whereas on the open road all four wheels would spin

It is easy for the software systems in many modern cars and trucks to
check if only two wheels are spinning. The VW cars would begin
executing a special subroutine that caused the engine to limit the
emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

A natural name would be "cheat subroutine", but the nomenclature
apparently was created in the past when a separate device was used to
cheat. Hence, the terms "defeat device" or "cheat device" are being
used now to describe the situation.

Consumer Reports and other publications are using phrases like "test
mode" and "cheat mode".  Personally, I think the term "cheat mode" is
ambiguous. In the Wired article below "cheat mode" refers to the mode
when the software in the car determines that the car is probably being
tested; hence, NOx emissions are reduced.

But there is another natural notion of "cheat mode". Imagine that
"cheat mode" refers to the mode during which the car recognizes that
it is not being tested. In this mode the car "cheats" by breaking the
law and releasing excessive amounts of NOx.

Below are a few citations from recent times. Considerably older
citations exist. The first citation is about testing methodology.

Website: Consumer Reports
Article: Volkswagen Emissions Cheat Exploited 'Test Mode'
Article subtitle: The common mode enables dyno testing, but VW used it
to game the system
Author: Jon Linkov
Date: September 25, 2015


[Begin excerpt]
Emissions system and fuel economy testing is conducted while a vehicle
is placed on a dynamometer--think of it as a two big rollers or a
treadmill--rather than driving on the road. The vehicle has only its
driving wheels rolling (the front ones, in the case of VW vehicles).
But the rear tires are stationary.
[End excerpt]

Website: Wired
Title: How VW's Cheat Mode Hurts Performance and Fuel Economy
Author: Alex Davies
Date: October 9, 2015


[Begin excerpt]
Ever since Volkswagen admitted it rigged more than 10 million diesel
cars to cheat on emissions tests by temporarily adjusting their
performance, owners have wondered what will happen when the
automaker’s forced to recall their vehicles and “fix” the problem.

VW has said most of the affected cars will just need a software
update, presumably so the engine always runs the way it does during
EPA testing, and always meets emission standards. That’s bad for
drivers, because to meet NOx emissions standards, the cars in test
mode sacrificed some fuel economy and performance.

To figure out precisely how "cheat mode" changed those numbers,
Consumer Reports hacked its way into a 2015 Jetta TDI and 2011 Jetta
Sportwagen TDI, tricking them into thinking they were being tested by
the EPA, then put them on the track.
[End excerpt]

CSM used the phrase "defeat-device software".

Website: The Christian Science Monitor
Article: First Look: Volkswagen's US chief testifies he was unaware of
emissions cheat
Date: October 8, 2015
Author: Kelsey Warner


[Begin excerpt]
Volkswagen's top US executive told lawmakers he was unaware in 2014
that the automaker was using defeat-device software to cheat emissions
tests on diesel-powered cars, speaking before a congressional
subcommittee Thursday.
[End excerpt]

The term "cheat device" was employed by a Canadian news service headline writer.


Website: CBC News
Article: U.S. regulators probe whether Volkswagens have 2nd cheat device
Timestamp: Oct 09, 2015 11:25 AM ET

[Begin excerpt]
U.S. and California regulators are investigating whether a second
device designed to foil emissions regulations has been installed in
some Volkswagen models, according to the New York Times.
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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