The VW emissions scandal fascinates me. Maybe because it’s a case of software being used to fundamentally alter a product to deceive us. Maybe because I’m a car guy and have a soft spot for VW and the old Scirocco I used to drive in college. Maybe because we have blame being passed between management and software developers that could potentially affect our industry.
In any case, the latest news I saw was of a press conference where the upper management of VW seems to indicate that the software developers on the project decided to alter the software. Certainly I’m sure some managers were involved, but I still fundamentally find it hard to believe that a small team engineered these changes independently. Even if they did, I think that ultimately upper management throughout the company has to take responsibility. After all, they took credit for the sales.
There are a couple interesting points made by the company. First, they are upgrading IT systems to track work better. I’m hoping they’re moving to more of a DevOps practice, with transparency and openness, as well as lean processes that can be changed quickly. I suspect they might be moving to more overhead and auditing, but time will tell.
The other interesting thing is that the company noted that even when technical solutions were available, they weren’t used. To me, this directly points to the problems so many of us face as technologists. When we have better solutions, or we can correct deficiencies, management doesn’t want to spend the time or effort to do so.
That is one of the fundamental things that makes software so powerful. We can make changes, we can improve things, we can implement better security in a way that’s a fraction of the cost of making similar changes in the analog world. However it seems that even smaller efforts aren’t worth making if there is a little more profit to be squeezed out. At least, that’s what managers seem to think.
That’s a part of business culture that I’d like to see evolve. Let’s look to continually improve things, making them better, more secure, and less bug ridden, even if it slightly slows down new enhancements or costs a little money.