Seattle Public Radio Station Manages To Partially Brick Area Mazdas Using Nothing More Than Some Image Files
from the may-we-offer-you-a-tote-bag-bearing-our-logo.null dept
Welp. This isn’t going to help future fundraising drives. Not when a public radio station is negatively affecting, you know, driving.
Drivers of certain vehicles in Seattle and other parts of Western Washington are shouting at their car radios this week. Not because of any particular song or news item that’s being broadcast, but because an apparent technical glitch has caused the radios to be stuck on public radio station KUOW.
The impacted drivers appear to all be owners of Mazda vehicles from between 2014 and 2017. In some cases the in-car infotainment systems have stopped working altogether, derailing the ability to listen to the radio at all or use Bluetooth phone connections, GPS, the rear camera and more.
Behold the collision of OTA and IO(car)T. This unique situation — limited solely to drivers in the Upper West — presented a host of new problems and a lot of speculative answers. The radio station had absolutely no idea why this was happening. One local dealership told a customer it had something to do with 5G, which apparently meant affected Mazdas were now infected with a car-borne form of COVID, presumably necessitating plenty of expensive diagnostics and what have you.
Fortunately, the cars’ manufacturer was actually able to pinpoint the cause of the malfunction — which left some drivers staring at in-car systems stuck in a perpetual “loading…” loop. The answer arrived roughly a week after the problem presented itself. The problem — discussed in this entertaining Reddit thread — had nothing to do with network upgrades or an unexplained bug in Mazda software.
Instead, the public radio station had done something completely unexpected, sending affected vehicles into in-car entertainment purgatory. This is the statement Mazda gave to Geekwire.
“Between 1/24-1/31, a radio station in the Seattle area sent image files with no extension, which caused an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older software,” the Mazda statement said. “Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) has distributed service alerts advising dealers of the issue.”
While it’s somewhat troubling to note that Mazdas manufactured within the last eight years are running what Mazda considers to be outdated software, the good news is that it can be fixed. The bad news follows the good news: due to shipping constraints affecting goddamn everything, drivers affected by this oddity shouldn’t expect to see a fix anytime soon. “Part delays” cited by Mazda could put permanent fixes months off.
On the other hand (good news!), even older models will be covered by these repairs, whether or not they’re still under warranty. The company has instructed dealers to honor “goodwill requests” for free repairs of affected vehicles. Back to the bad news: the part that apparently needs to be replaced is the ominous-sounding “connectivity master unit,” which indicates a whole lot of connectivity will be affected until dealers get the part in stock and start dealing with the backlog of semi-bricked Mazdas. Some users have reported in-car entertainment systems stuck in permanent loops, non-functioning GPS systems, and bricked back-up cameras.
This isn’t going to go well for Mazda, considering it’s the only manufacturer whose systems have been rendered useless by a misconfigured file distributed by a radio station. While this situation is certainly an outlier, there’s likely a reason other in-car entertainment systems weren’t similarly affected, which suggests a crucial shortcoming in the tech installed in those models — one that could be exploited by entities far more nefarious than local public broadcasters.