“Proprietary software is…” Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center said, “…an unsafe building material –you cannot inspect it.” Volkswagen’s action –of purposefully and shamelessly creating software to deceive both customers and regulators, indeed shows this to be the case.
The software was carefully crafted to detect when an inspection was taking place, by examining the position of the steering wheel, by checking acceleration patterns, and by examining pressure at the exhaust. Only then was the pollution-control equipment, which customers paid for at a premium, briefly turned on.
Clearly, such software was not accidental –extensive testing was required, and likely cars had to be placed under simulated inspections at Volkswagen so that the software’s deceitful intent could be fine-tuned, corroborated, and placed into production –in short, developed and tested methodically just as all complex software that is part of complex systems is.
Hence, Moglen’s warnings sound even more on point: “Intelligent public policy, as we all have learned since the early 20th century, is to require elevators to be inspectable, and to require manufacturers of elevators to build them so they can be inspected, if Volkswagen knew that every customer who buys a vehicle would have a right to read the source code of all the software in the vehicle, they would never even consider the cheat, because the certainty of getting caught would terrify them.”
“Art Man”, Courtesy of gubgib; Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.