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Mazda Drivers in Seattle Can Only Listen to Public Radio, Dealerships Blame 5G

Engineers are trying to figure out the real reason this happened as Mazda prepares to fix a lot of cars.

By Matthew Humphries

If you drive a Mazda in Seattle, there’s a good chance your car radio can only listen to KUOW 94.9 right now, or worse, it stopped working completely.

As GeekWire reports, the affected vehicles all seem to be Mazda models released between 2014–2017 and are fitted with a HD Radio infotainment system provided by Xperi. The glitch occurred over the past few weeks, and drivers all seem to have similar stories: They were listening to KUOW 94.9 and the infotainment units would then start repeatedly rebooting and only play 94.9 after that. In other cases the unit just died.

Even the most devoted public radio listeners can only take so much, and with some units failing completely, Mazda dealerships are seeing an influx of owners asking for a fix. At least one of those dealerships has blamed KUOW “switching to 5G” as the reason why this has happened. It’s true that KUOW did switch to using a 5G signal a few weeks ago, but that was simply because cellphone companies did, it’s completely separate to the radio service they run. And as KUOW reporter Casey Martin points out, the “5G theory” leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

A more believable, yet still very strange, explanation has been issued by Mazda North American Operations. In a statement Mazda explained, “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.”

Mazda goes on to state that dealerships have been sent a service alert explaining the problem, but also pointed out getting parts was proving difficult due to “shipping constraints.” That suggests Mazda is blaming the radio station and that the fix means replacing at least some of the parts in the infotainment units.

KUOW Operations Director Dane Johnson confirmed the only image they use is the KUOW logo and told GeekWire that Xperi has been given “direct access to our transmitters and data servers to try and work out the issue.” Amy Brennan, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Xperi, has told PCMag that with regards to its HD Radio system, “this is FM radio so no 3/4/5G involved.”

The one thing everyone apart from the dealerships seem to agree on is that this isn’t a 5G problem, with Johnson saying, “When they talk about cars and a 5G vs. 3G issue it’s cars that have an actual cell receiver in them and are on a service like AT&T that may have problems if that provider sunsets 3G. It has nothing to do with broadcast terrestrial service.”

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.

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