Automaker Volkswagen has halted plans to offer an “inflatable passenger” option in new cars for carpool lane users after allegations emerged from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the software running on 482,000 diesel cars – including the 2014 and 2015 Passat manufactured in Chattanooga – was essentially a “defeat device” for emissions testing.
The inflatable passenger option would allow the driver, when driving alone, to activate a freon canister to inflate a blow-up doll in the passenger seat and to avoid scrutiny when using the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes during weekday morning and afternoon commutes, which by law can only be used by vehicles with two or more occupants.
High Occupancy Vehicle lanes are designed to reduce congestion and encourage people to carpool in order to reduce the pollution caused by car emissions.
According to investigators, Volkswagen admitted that the defeat device was installed, which would recognize when an official emissions test was occurring and turn on full emissions controls only during that time.
Emissions testing has measurably improved the air quality in Hamilton County since 2004, when it did not meet the Federal Standard.
Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn offered an apology for breaking the trust of their customers and added, “You win this round, Mother Nature. Just watch your back, granola queen.”