ore than 20 years ago, an engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency invented a device that allows technicians to measure the emissions of a car as it is traveling in the real world.
Had the device, then known as ROVER, been used by the EPA to screen cars, it would have detected Volkswagen’s cheating long ago, former engineers for the EPA said.
But the Alexandria, Va., lab where the testing device was developed was closed by the EPA about 2001, and the contractors who worked there were laid off. The pilot program that used the new devices to test cars for emissions compliance on the road did not continue, officials said.
“When this all came out in the news about VW, my first thought was, ‘Wow, we could have been all over this,’?” said John Lux, testing manager at the lab.