When Mark Andreessen explained how software was eating the world, the business disruption he was anticipating isn’t the one Volkswagen faces today. The US pollution test evading functionality engineered into many of Volkswagen’s diesel cars has already claimed the head of its CEO, and others are sure to follow. Other countries are investigating their exposure to this functionality, and executives at competing car manufacturers are probably busy ordering internal reviews.
The scandal was uncovered by the old-fashioned scientific method: test, and when the results seem weird, test again. But the ultimate irony here is that the disruption came from a piece of well-crafted software, intentionally embedded by authorized users but hidden from all but the most careful and knowledgeable investigators.
When the rest of the industry was worried about drive-by car hacking and the disruptive potential of Apple’s future electric cars, Volkswagen shareholders should have worried more about good old internal creative “hacking.”