Another failed update: Connected cars, over-the-air updates, and what happens when it goes wrong

Posted by: Thom Denholm

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) – who own Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler among others – was in the news last week when an over-the-air update to their Uconnect infotainment system caused the system to go into an endless loop of reboots. Owners of some cars made by the company (e.g. Chrysler Pacifica Limited [1]) can’t use the rear view camera, the radio, or the GPS, and the attempted fix resulted in dead batteries and frustrated users who took to social media to express their anger with the situation.

This problem didn't affect the engine, and the cars remain drivable to an extent. According to Uconnect’s customer support Twitter account, the problem has to do with the Travel Link feature from SiriusXM. A patch which removed that feature was made available late last week, and customers were advised to leave their vehicles running for 15-20 minutes in an open space with a solid satellite signal.

Some customers reported that once the first update was received, the system continued to reboot even after the vehicle was turned off and the key was removed from the vicinity. This endless stream of reboots operated only off the battery, not a running engine, and has had the side effect of draining the battery completely. [2]

While this problem was exclusive to a narrow set of devices on essentially brand-new vehicles, it emphasizes the importance of testing all aspects of product updates before going live with them. It is a cautionary tale for all developers to consider and mitigate the consequences of a failed update.

It seems unlikely that a faulty file system is solely to blame for this update failure. If one of Datalight's Reliance family of file systems were being used, the system should have been able to seamlessly revert to a prior, stable state - thus stopping the bootloop and allowing customers to use all the features that depend on a functional infotainment system.

Learn more about Reliance file systems and how Datalight ensure trouble-free data

Comments (2)

  1. William Dye:
    Feb 28, 2018 at 10:13 AM

    Thanks for mentioning the news articles. Even though I try to keep up with news about embedded systems, I didn't know about the Uconnect reboot problem until now. I'm responsible for remote software updates of an IOT device (a lab instrument for analyzing DNA samples), so embedded update fiascos are of great interest.

    Minor note: the links marked "[1]" and "[2]" point to a local file. You might want to try out a free link-checking script.

  2. Thom Denholm:
    Mar 06, 2018 at 01:55 PM

    Thanks William, I fixed the links. Posted this right before flying to Embedded World.

    Remote update failures should be completely avoidable with sufficient testing, but that seems to be a scarce resource at the moment.

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