Over-the-air software glitch downs Lexus navigation systems

Some bad computer code took down an unknown number of Lexus vehicles Tuesday, Toyota acknowledged today. The takedown also affected 2016 Toyota Land Cruisers. Owners were told to bring their vehicles back to their dealers for a reset.

A major download snafu sent no one knows how many Lexus infotainment and navigation systems in 2014-16 models into black holes Tuesday, the automaker acknowledged Wednesday. And, now the automaker has asked owners of the luxury vehicles to return to their dealerships so the problem can be fixed with a reset.

Cindy Knight, a company spokeswoman, said the issue affects the Lexus line and one Toyota model, the 2016 Land Cruiser. The computer glitch Tuesday turned off the navigation and, possibly, other systems. In addition to losing their sense of direction, the vehicles may have lost their hearing and may have left drivers in hot cities sweltering as the audio and climate control systems may have been knocked out of commission.

Indeed, irate owners took to social media to vent after they found their navigation system screens becoming an interesting shade of purple and rebooting. Though no one knows the extent or regions affected by the over-the-air software download problem, owners in Chicago, the southern U.S. and California complained about the glitch.

One owner went so far as posting a video to YouTube showing the nav system on a Lexus RX350 starting, blanking out to the purple screen and rebooting. In some instances, Knight confirmed, the systems went into a boot loop as they failed over and constantly rebooted.

Knight said that several functions were disabled after a weather and traffic service provider sent a software service update to an unknown number of vehicles via high-def radio. The provider was not identified.

Toyota, Lexus’ parent, halted the transmission of the bad data Tuesday night after the automaker found out about it, Knight said. Vehicles that received the bad data sets must be returned to their dealerships so a hard reset can be performed.

Some owners claimed in Twitter posts that they were able to reset their systems by removing the vehicle battery’s negative terminal, with the vehicle off, waiting 30 seconds and reattaching it to its post.

At least one electronics expert, who declined to be identified because of potential conflicts, cautioned against attempting this maneuver. “All it will take is a second or two or crossing your hands, allowing the negative and positive terminals to touch and you’ll be replacing several thousand dollars’ worth of worthless computer hardware as it will have been totally fried,” he said. Further, he cautioned, that taking this step may void the vehicle’s warranty, leaving you with a hefty out-of-pocket bill to pay.

The expert had one other cautionary piece of advice. “Be aware that if you remove the terminal that you may also be creating a huge voltage spike that can also destroy your vehicle’s electronics. You may not think this is possible because you’re only dealing with the negative side of things, but, believe me, it can happen. Your best move is to leave it to your dealer,” he emphasized. The expert’s credentials include 25 years as a computer service engineer, system and network manager. He is also an Amateur Radio operator with 36 years operating experience in both analog and digital systems.

Interestingly, the Lexus was rated the most dependable vehicle in J.D. Power and Associates annual survey, published in February. Though it was at the top, infotainment system problems, as well as trouble with navigation and in-vehicle communications systems glitches were reportedly on the rise. The hiccups accounted for 20 percent of all consumer complaints.

Sources: Automotive News, Fortune

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