A large part of our discussions in the IDEAS seminars is on engineering ethics, and what it means to be an engineer in our present time and to stick to a moral and ethical code at the same time. We talked about this topic in relation to Challenger and Woburn (water contamination in A Civil Action), along with other works.
Along with this discussion goes the question, “When will we learn?”. People have written about and known about engineering ethical failures throughout history ,and yet they continue to happen today. This is shown plainly in the Volkswagen diesel engine scandal that just erupted recently. Individuals at the company knew of the faulty emission systems and how they would not have been approved by environmental regulators.
Instead of doing what is best for the customers, and taking maybe the time and extra cost to make sure that the software was functioning correctly, they took an easy way out, to try and deceive others instead of practicing ethical engineering. Now, they are dealing with an aftermath that will affect their sales and reputation, when it all could have been avoided.
Article from the New York Times on the scandal and investigation: