Radio station played bad files, wrecked car infotainment • The Register


In January, drivers of older model Mazdas in the Seattle, Wash., area began to see their HD Radio receivers fail when tuning into the local public radio station.

According to the Seattle Times, the issue affected 2014-2017 model year Mazdas with infotainment systems that supported HD Radio. The KUOW setting, which sits at 94.9 on the FM dial, caused some Mazda in-car infotainment systems to fail.

In threads on Reddit, people report that the problem manifests itself in different ways: some describe a frozen radio display screen, others talk about endless reboot loops. The issue has also caused radios to hang on KUOW, which the public radio station says it is trying to help fix.

“KUOW is aware of an apparent issue between our signal and some Mazda infotainment systems, causing radios to restart when they connect to KUOW’s 94.9 FM signal,” the broadcaster said in a statement. “We have been in contact with Xperi, the company that owns the technology behind HD Radio, and have given them full access to our transmitters to investigate the cause of this issue.”

KUOW said its operations team is trying to resolve the issue.

And to hear Xperi and Madza tell it, the broadcaster is responsible for transmitting images – which appear on HD Radio display screens – without the required file extension in the file name.

Xperi attributed the problem to the way KUOW sent its data.

“Our current assessment is that there was a formatting issue with the data transmitted,” a company spokesperson said. The register in an email. “We’ve worked with the station to address this, and we don’t believe there are any lingering issues with car stereos on the market.”

Mazda also said the transmission killed its cars’ radios.

“Between 01/24 and 01/31, a Seattle-area radio station sent image files with no extension (e.g., .jpeg or .gif missing), which caused an issue on some Mazda vehicles 2014-2017 with older software.” the company said. “Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) distributed service alerts notifying dealers of the issue.”

“While dealerships are currently experiencing part delays due to shipping constraints, MNAO will support affected customers with replacement parts. These customers should contact their local Mazda dealership who can submit a goodwill request to the warranty department. Mazda on their behalf, order the parts and schedule a free repair when the parts arrive.”

According to the Seattle Times, Lorenzo Pieruccioni, service manager at Mazda of Olympia, Wash., said he saw several customers come in with radio problems, which he attributed to a corrupt Connectivity Master Unit (CMU).

The CMU moderates the flow of video and audio signals to the infotainment system. It normally costs $1,500, but remains rare due to supply chain issues.

Mazda’s statement implicitly admits that older versions of its infotainment system software fail to sufficiently validate inputs, allowing malformed data to crash the device.

Mazda and Xperi did not immediately respond to a request for clarification of which software version fixes this issue for newer vehicles. But if Mazda’s answer is a hardware replacement, it would seem that a software update isn’t an option.

The 99% Invisible podcast in 2019 explored a separate bug related to the handling of printf format strings that affected the infotainment system in a 2016 Mazda sedan. ®


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