Automotive Software Seems Fragile

Automotive software seems a lot more fragile than I’d like to believe. Here’s a couple stories about minor errors causing mayhem.

Thanks to a glitch, some Seattle Mazda drivers can’t tune their radios away from KUOW

As the radio remained frozen, the rebooting visuals on the screen in the middle of the dashboard were just too distracting when he was driving. Welding ended up covering the spot with cardboard.

Erik Lacitis, Updated February 11, 2022,

Tuning to KUOW, caused some Mazda in-vehicle infotainment systems to fail. According to the Seattle Times, the error impacted 2014-2017 Mazdas with HD Radio infotainment systems. The cause of the failure was seemingly broadcasting images without a file extension.

That’s not the first infotainment system related error. The Reply All podcast had an episode about how another podcast 99% Invisible broke Mazda. The combination of Bluetooth + car radio + the 99% Invisible podcascaused some Mazda’s radios to freeze, shut down and restart.

The podcast is embedded, and can also be found here. The problem (now long fixed) had to do with the name of the podcast.

Reply All’s Brilliant Roman Mars Episode Messes With the Podcasting Industry

Oftentimes, the internet being what it is, these adventures touch the surface of something much darker, perhaps even dangerous. Not so with the case of Ben’s malfunctioning Mazda, which instead leads Goldman & Co. into a journey of pure whimsy. In their bid to figure out why the car so vehemently rejects 99% Invisible — is it Mars’s voice? Is it a virus? — they call up the famed podcaster, leading to an unexpectedly pleasant piece of Avengers-esque crossover action. Mars offers up that this isn’t the first time he’s heard of this problem, but is stumped and bummed that it happens nonetheless. Goldman eventually lands on the theory that the shutdowns might have something to do with the percent symbol in the podcast’s title, and how that could mess up car computing systems.
Nicholas Quah, April 17, 2019,

Both stories are related to Mazda however the amount of software issues that impact cars is vast. Here’s a couple more examples.

RELATED  A Blue Check On A Pike Warns Us Not To Give Up The Web

Volkswagen has given a name to its pain, and it is ‘software’

The German automaker’s ID family of electric cars are plagued with buggy software, causing customer headaches and leading to major setbacks for the company’s next-gen Trinity project. How can VW patch the problem?
Patrick George, December 14, 2022,

How An Automatic Over-The-Air Update Left A Bunch Of Volvo Owners Stranded

Last week, The Autopian received an email from a reader describing a situation involving his mother’s 2022 Volvo XC60. The car had received an over-the-air software update at some point during the night, and when the owner attempted to start the car the next day, it would not start. The car had somehow been put into anti-theft mode, which immobilizes the vehicle and prevents it from starting. This incident does not appear to be limited to our reader’s mother, and we have confirmed more cases and details, plus we’ve received confirmation from Volvo about the issue. But there’s still a lot we don’t know, and it brings up some interesting issues about software updates worth discussing.
Jason Torchinsky, April 19, 2022,