The invention of the automobile has brought more positive and negative effects than any other invention throughout transportation history. Transportations have changed the way people live all over the world. Automobile companies have created numerous jobs all around the globe. Automobiles have affected all aspects of society such as family life, the economy, and even the environment. The advancement of automobiles over time has directly affected the advancement of society as a whole. Society relies intensely and increasing on private motorized transport, vehicles are expected to become safer, more luxurious and powerful. These expectation, however do not take into account of the ensuring consequences such as greater emissions of air pollutants and greater exposure of people to hazardous pollution that causes serious health problems. All the evidence points to the magnitude of these adverse effects on health and to the need to identify solutions that both reduce risks to health and meet the requirement for mobility. This creates a major challenge to the governments, public health organizations, environment authorities and most importantly to the design engineers. Automotive emission related air pollution must be reduced before its effects on health can be prevented. Engineers play a pivotal role in development of cleaner automotive technologies, working within the effective policies to manage the demand for automotive and designing an automotive that are safer for health and environment.
Air pollution and its negative impact on human health:
Internal combustion engines and conventional fuels are the dominant contributor to transport-related air pollution. In automobile an exhaust gas is emitted during a combustion process. The exhaust gas is actually a combination of many different gases such as N2, CO2, H2O and O2. Though some are harmless, there are few that are harmful and are considered major pollutants. The major pollutants are Hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen oxide (NOx), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), etc. These gases can affect human health in both short and long term. Gases like Carbon Monoxide have the potential to kill people if taken in large concentration. The consequences of these pollutants in human health are alarming.
Case study China
Air pollution in china is not a new concern. “Red alarms” that flag particularly poor air quality have frequently made headlines around the world. According to the report of fortune air quality in Beijing had climbed to 260, which is five times than what’s considered healthy. In China, motor vehicles have become one of the most important sources of air pollution, especially for large cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. In these cities, emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from vehicles accounted for over 80% and 40% of total urban pollutant emissions, respectively. Short- and long-term exposure to air pollution, including PM, NO2, O3, and CO from transportation, is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. Air pollutants have been positively and significantly associated with increased total, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality across urban centers in China. Infants and children, adolescents, and the elderly, are more susceptible than the general population to the damaging effects of these pollutants, and ambient air pollution in China is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes including lower birth weights, pre-term birth, and congenital anomaly, especially cardiovascular defects. China had been the world’s biggest car producer since 2009, while its technology is lower than advanced international levels. Implementation of strict standards on vehicle exhaust emissions would significantly control air pollution. Engineers face the huge challenge to improve the catalytic converters, fuel injection and the structure of the engine’s combustion chamber in order to meet the new standards.
On 2015 U.S. regulators accused the Volkswagen Company for programing perhaps 11 million vehicles worldwide to falsely show on official tests that the vehicles were emitting lower levels of harmful emissions than they really were while being driven on the roads. Regulators in the U.S. accused the company of cheating on environmental standards by programming engine management software in some diesel cars to recognize when the vehicles were being tested by regulators and then to turn on emission controls just while being tested on treadmills by government. Apparently, the defeat device isn’t really a device but rather several lines of programming code in the computer that controls the engine’s exhaust system .The defeat device enables the car to run to a cleaner, when the car recognizes a test, however they can’t run cleaner without sacrificing fuel efficiency or some of the engine’s power
Thus, the vehicle apparently operated within emission control parameters; yet cars equipped with these devices would emit in excess 40 times the emissions when back in normal driving conditions and actually running on the road. The software switches the engines to a more clean emissions mode while testing, but then after testing switches off again, thereby enabling the vehicle to drive more powerfully on the road, but by emitting as much as 40 times the legal pollution limits, particularly emitting nitrous oxide, a pollutant connected to lung ailments. Such excess pollution was predicted to cause approximately 59 premature deaths, 31 cases of chronic bronchitis, 34 hospital admissions, 120,000 days of restricted activity, including lost work days ‘210,000 days’ with lower-respiratory problems and 33,000 days with increased use of asthma inhalers.
The scandal has caused Volkswagen to face serious legal consequences in varying jurisdiction. Apart from a precipitous 34% drop in share price in a matter of days, fine in US alone could be as high as $18billion.In the aftermath of scandal, The US government and some state government, notably California have established very strict emission standards for vehicles.
Organization and policy makers:
The scandal had a huge impact on the brand image and sales. The key questions to be raised is; how much liable were organization and policy makers? How, who, and why could a corporate culture with a tolerance for rule-breaking have been created?
The action of any organization today could be defined with four different ethical approaches.
1. Ethical egoism: The ethical challenge for any business leader today is to make decisions and engage in actions that advance self-interest of the organization.
2. Ethical Relativism: The concept of ethical relativism revolves around the fact that different groups have different ethical standards in determining what is right and what is wrong, and their beliefs stand true to the particular group even when it may not be basic moral principle.
3. Utilitarianism: The Utilitarian approach access an action in terms of its consequences and outcomes i.e. the net benefits and costs to all stakeholders or an individual level. Outcomes may be quantified in such term as contentment ; suffering, the relative values of individual preferences monetary gain or loss, or the short term or long term effects of an action.
4. Kantian duty based ethics: The concept of Kantian duty based ethics revolves around the fact that some acts are right or wrong because of the sorts of things they are, and people have a duty to act accordingly, regardless of the good or bad consequences that may be produced.
The basis for acting morally in the case of Volkswagen is ethical egoism. The peer pressure to surpass Toyota as the largest carmaker in the world and financial benefits to the organization and shareholders could have led the Volkswagens to make such decision. Volkswagen plainly did not calculate its own long term self-interest. Volkswagen made a tremendous mistake in its corporate risk assessment, believing it could get away with this type of cheating and believing that consequences would be modest.
Future trends tesla:
The extent of the harm needs to be considered by the automobile industry as the industry attempts to reduce pollution with new technology. The innovation should pose no threat to the environment and be able to retain its usefulness over time. Tesla is an all-electric car with a large battery that was released in an effort to help reduce the carbon emissions released into the environment. Although the idea of an all battery car seems perfect, considering the fact that when the life of the car is over, parts of the car can be recycled but the battery cannot, which make this idea seem not so beneficial. If the battery cannot be disposed in some environmental friendly approach, then the benefits of the car itself may be outweighed by the environmental detriment it causes. To resolve this issue, the company, Tesla, created the “Closed Loop Battery Recycling Program,” in which the batteries are able to be recycled by the company in an environmentally friendly fashion. This program provides a solution for the batteries disposal and now makes the car itself beneficial to our environment.
The engineering field has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life for all people and hence should follow the strict code of ethics. According to the The NSPE code of ethics “an engineer must accordingly provide honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare in all aspects of his or her career. Engineers should only preform services within their own field of knowledge. Engineers should act in a professional manner by considering the clients as trustees and avoiding any conflict of interests. Engineers should respect the property and intellectual rights of information in their business. Engineers should make public statements only in a truthful and objective manner. And Engineers should consider the environmental impact and sustainability of their performance.”
Volkswagen engineers to blame:
The pressure from authority and normative drove engineers of Volkswagen to collaborate out of short-term self-interest, generating solutions as a defeat device that were desirable from the perspective of their superiors. The Volkswagen engineering ¬ seemingly accepted software that allowed a car to detect when it was being tested for engine emissions and adjust its output to mislead the inspectors. The engineers embraced dishonesty that, when presented with a set of constraints, they used their technical skills to find a solution that mislead outsiders without thinking about the ramifications of their work.