Adaptive shift programs alter the characteristics of a vehicle's transmission to suit different driving styles. Gentle driving will result in earlier shifts and lower engine revs, while hard-charging on the pedals and steering will make the transmission more responsive and hold gears longer.
That adaptation can change over time or even on a short-term basis. And it can save fuel. The difference in this case is that is seems that the Audi transmissions were specifically programmed to detect emissions test conditions. As we explained in a previous article, one of those test conditions is keeping the wheel straight. Turning more than 15 degrees shuts the test mode off.
According to Reuters, the US government is trying to determine whether this classifies as an emissions cheat device, although VW, Audi, and the EPA have not commented on the record. This latest accusation is separate from the larger VW diesel emissions scandal.