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Some Mazdas in the Seattle area have their communication systems cornered by radio lines

Every car forum has a topic about broken infotainment systems. As technology-driven vehicles are controlled through infotainment systems, it is inevitable that every car manufacturer will devote time to its attention – or court – to deal with the numerous pitfalls hidden in the enormous amount of code found in an average modern car. Now it’s Mazda’s but only available to select Mazdas from the 2014 to 2017 model years and only those in the Seattle, Washington area can tune in to National Public Radio (NPR) KUOW.

One piece inside Seattle Times explains that something in the HD Radio signal that KUOW sends out nearly crashes the infotainment systems on these cars. The general theme is that after the inciting incident, the station will only broadcast KUOW. However, since the display would only play the Mazda wake-up animation over and over again, owners have lost access to navigation, Bluetooth, reverse camera, and vehicle information.

No one believed it was an NPR conspiracy. Not yet. The Seattle Times talked to a few owners, a few agency, Mazda and Xperi, a company that makes HD radio software. Mazda pointed to the culprit when the station transmits image files without extensions, such as album covers, that Mazda’s media software tries to process and fails to process, with tragic results. Mazda did not say why this problem only occurs on the model years in question, nor why this particular software cannot fix the file extension error that has existed as long as the file is present.

The story is one of those stories that can make you shake your head and chuckle at the unfortunate people, then look at your car outside and wonder, “How long will it take for me to make you like this? ” Small snafus seem to be on the rise, as we’re not joking about the amount of software in cars these days. Back in 2009, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers wrote, “It takes dozens of microprocessors running 100 million lines of code to get a high-end car out of the way, and the software will get more and more complex.” That’s about four times the amount of code needed operating the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighteralmost 70% more than all Facebook run code. This is before the all-out race in driver convenience features, vehicles becoming digital buttons, and the industry’s mission to catch up with the consumer electronics software cycle. Imagine how many more lines have been compiled in 13 years, and how many more to come (Autonomy Level 3, anyone?).

However, before you do that, check the Seattle Times story. And praise goes to Mazda for ramping up care of the affected cars while everyone tries to figure out what’s going on.

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