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TOPIC : Hardening vehicle environmental protection systems against tampering

Topic identifier: LC-MG-1-4-2018
Publication date: 27 October 2017
Focus area: Building a low-carbon, climate resilient future (LC)

Types of action: RIA Research and Innovation action
Opening date:
31 October 2017
2nd stage Deadline:
31 January 2018 17:00:00
19 September 2018 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020 H2020 website
Pillar: Societal Challenges
Work Programme Year: H2020-2018-2020
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Automotive emissions control technologies have the potential to greatly reduce the impact of combustion-based transport. However most of them, even when programmed for full effectiveness by the vehicle manufacturer, are affected by the risk of vehicle owners modifying or suppressing them for many reasons.

Three way catalysts (TWC) systems in gasoline and natural gas vehicles, Diesel particle filters (DPF), Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) systems have been tampered with since many years because they can limit engine power, create maintenance problems, increase the consumption of fuel or simply because of the high cost of their replacement when they reach the end of their useful life or in case of malfunction. More recently, tampering has also become widespread on Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems, particularly for heavy duty vehicles[1], as the urea-based liquid needed for their functioning is an additional cost for the operator. Finally there are systems providing a remapping of the engine control to increase power and this often leads to strong increases in emissions. For each of these issues there are do-it-yourself as well as 'professional' solutions offered by private enterprises, often on the internet.

In addition, there are also concerns[2] that On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) systems, that are intended to signal to the user when the after-treatment system is not working properly, are not always properly functioning and this facilitates tampering while allowing environmentally-damaging component aging or failure to go undetected.

Tampering also exist for other important devices, such as tachographs or alcolocks. At the same time, automotive-type de-pollution technologies are applied in other sectors, such as rail, inland navigation, generators, earth-moving machinery, etc and any anti-tampering solution would also be relevant for these applications. In addition synergies can be sought with cybersecurity efforts in other domains.

The challenge is to ensure that all the above mentioned systems cannot be bypassed or modified and therefore maintain their full operational capability through the life of the vehicle, and to provide input to any legislative initiatives that might be needed to improve the implementation of protection systems and the repression of tampering devices in the field.


Proposals will have to address all the following technical areas:

  • Independent testing of light and heavy duty vehicles from the field to assess the capability of their OBD systems to detect tampering methods and maintenance issues in real driving.
  • Installation of representative tampering systems on vehicles, identification of their working principles and analysis of their performance.
  • Analysis of vehicle hardware and software by IT security experts and hackers (for instance through a Hackaton or prize) to assess the weaknesses of the employed OBD and protection technologies and assessment of the risk of hacking for each type of application (cars, trucks, non-road) and type of emissions-control system, with priority for truck de-NOX systems and particulate filters on all vehicles.
  • Development and application of enhanced tampering proofing methodologies, coding and electronic component protection systems, both specific or derived from security application from the IT sector to ensure a high resistance to tampering of the whole engine management and after treatment system, while maintaining the capability for certification authorities to assess the software according to upcoming legislative requirements and facilitating quick and safe updates of the system to re-establish its integrity if new tampering systems appear on the market.
  • Improvement of OBD systems and methodologies including use of cheap sensors, allowing the development of a more tamper resistant OBD and possibly On Board Monitoring (OBM) approaches, capable of also providing the basis for the application of "polluter-pays" taxation principles.
  • Deriving guidelines for improvements in anti-tampering and OBD legislation in coordination with the relevant bodies when and where appropriate.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 3 and 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:

The developed solutions contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 3 ("Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages") and 11 (“Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”) since they will reduce vehicle emissions by implementing more effective OBD/OBM systems that guarantee that end users are informed timely of any emissions affecting malfunction or tampering and strong inducements (performance limitation) are applied in case of severe emissions increases. This extremely high resistance to hardware and software tampering will ensure a strong reduction or the total elimination of this phenomenon.

These impacts shall be demonstrated by tampering attempts developed by independent teams and by the implantation of artificial defects on the different depollution systems followed by verification of their detection in laboratory test conditions as well as in real driving.

Support for improved future legislative and standardisation actions.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Blue Growth



Topic conditions and documents

1. Eligible countries: described in Annex A of the Work Programme.
A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon 2020 projects. See the information in the Online Manual.


2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in Annex B and Annex C of the Work Programme. 


Proposal page limits and layout: please refer to Part B of the proposal template in the submission system below.


3. Evaluation:

  • Evaluation criteria, scoring and thresholds are described in Annex H of the Work Programme.  
  • Submission and evaluation processes are described in the Online Manual.

4. Indicative time for evaluation and grant agreements:    

Information on the outcome of evaluation (two-stage call):
For stage 1: maximum 3 months from the deadline for submission.
For stage 2: maximum 5 months from the deadline for submission.
Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months from the deadline for submission.


5. Proposal templates, evaluation forms and model grant agreements (MGA):

Research and Innovation Action:

Specific provisions and funding rates
Proposal templates are available after entering the submission tool below
Standard evaluation form
General MGA - Multi-Beneficiary
Annotated Grant Agreement


6. Additional provisions:

Horizon 2020 budget flexibility
Classified information
Technology readiness levels (TRL) – where a topic description refers to TRL, these definitions apply

Members of consortium are required to conclude a consortium agreement, in principle prior to the signature of the grant agreement.

8. Additional documents:

1. Introduction WP 2018-20       
11. Smart, green and integrated transport WP 2018-20      
18. Dissemination, Exploitation and Evaluation WP 2018-20

General annexes to the Work Programme 2018-2020

Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Regulation of Establishment
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Rules for Participation
Legal basis: Horizon 2020 Specific Programme


7. Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions.

Where relevant, proposals should also provide information on how the participants will manage the research data generated and/or collected during the project, such as details on what types of data the project will generate, whether and how this data will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved.

Open access to research data
The Open Research Data Pilot has been extended to cover all Horizon 2020 topics for which the submission is opened on 26 July 2016 or later. Projects funded under this topic will therefore by default provide open access to the research data they generate, except if they decide to opt-out under the conditions described in Annex L of the Work Programme. Projects can opt-out at any stage, that is both before and after the grant signature.

Note that the evaluation phase proposals will not be evaluated more favourably because they plan to open or share their data, and will not be penalised for opting out.

Open research data sharing applies to the data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications. Additionally, projects can choose to make other data available open access and need to describe their approach in a Data Management Plan.

Projects need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP), except if they opt-out of making their research data open access. A first version of the DMP must be provided as an early deliverable within six months of the project and should be updated during the project as appropriate. The Commission already provides guidance documents, including a template for DMPs. See the Online Manual.

Eligibility of costs: costs related to data management and data sharing are eligible for reimbursement during the project duration.

The legal requirements for projects participating in this pilot are in the article 29.3 of the Model Grant Agreement.


Additional documents

  • Flash Call Info_Stage 1 2018 en
  • Generalised feedback_Stage 1 2018 en
  • Flash Call Info_Stage 2 2018 en

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