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Purple screen of death: Bogus traffic data bricks Lexus infotainment systems

Lexus claims that data sent from its traffic and weather provider will force many owners to take an unscheduled trip to the dealer. At least the fix is free.


Update, 3:42 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to include a statement from the manufacturer regarding this situation.

In some modern vehicles, software updates can be beamed to owners without requiring a trip to the dealer. Cars can also receive weather and traffic data without specific over-the-air architecture, as it's handled by the car's already-existing antennas. Lexus currently has a big problem, thanks to the latter. Sounds like an engineer's about to get fired.

Our comrades at Jalopnik brought our attention to the issue by linking to Lexus' Twitter page, where one social media maven must be having a terrible time responding to the dozens of users that are complaining of blackouts and constant reboots of the infotainment system. In many instances, it appears completely, utterly unusable. In some cases, the screen will flash purple. In other cases, it will never stop its boot cycle.

Thankfully, most users are being pretty civil about the whole thing:

Lexus sent us a statement, confirming that the issue is happening on a wide scale, affecting multiple makes and models. Thankfully, it already knows how to fix the problem. The only downside is that the fix requires a trip to the dealer. While the remedy might cost nothing at the dealership, the owners' time isn't exactly a free resource. The full statement is below:

Errant data broadcast by our traffic and weather data service provider was not handled as expected by the microcomputer in the vehicle navigation head unit (center display) of 2014-16 Model Year Lexus vehicles and 2016 Model Year Toyota Land Cruiser. In some situations, this issue can cause the head unit to restart repeatedly, affecting operation of the navigation system, audio and climate control features. In addition, the back-up camera and hands-free mobile phone functions are inoperative. The data suspected to be the source of the error was corrected last night. The correction is a forced reset and clearing of the errant data from the system. Toyota and Lexus owners experiencing these issues should visit their dealer for a complimentary system reset and a confirmation of the system. Until then, owners of affected vehicles should exercise additional caution when driving. We regret any inconvenience to our customers.

Here's how Lexus' Enform infotainment system should look, the author's questionable music taste notwithstanding.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow