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Time to party like it's 2002: Acura and Honda car clocks knocked back 20 years by bug

Honda probes issue, has yet to identify the cause of the problem

Owners of older Acura and Honda vehicles marked the new year by revisiting 2002, a consequence of a bug affecting the cars' clock software.

With the onset of 2022, Acura and Honda customers began reporting on various online forums that their dashboard display clocks reset to January 1, 2002 when they restarted their vehicles.

A reader wrote in to alert The Register to the problem.

"Since New Year's Day my Honda CR-V has been unable to tell the time," the reader said. "When I start the car it just says it is 01:00 and though the time then continues from there, restarting the car resets back to 01:00 again."

"After a few moments searching I discovered it is a known issue with some Honda models with built-in sat nav. It seems that at midnight they switched from 2021 to 2002! Apparently there is no fix. :("

"I phoned my local Honda dealer and they told me the problem was with the satellites, not their nav, which seems to contradict what others have reported. They even suggested [British astronaut] Tim Peake may be called upon to do a little trip to fix the satellites. Umm. Yeah."

"The good news is that if they, or Tim, can't fix this I only have to wait seven months for it to fix itself. Magic."

"Maybe I should have bought a DeLorean."

Honda representatives, it's claimed, have acknowledged the clock errors and suggested the bug will resolve itself in seven months, at the end of August.

Auto-correct coming

"We have escalated the NAVI Clock Issue to our Engineering Team and they have informed us that you will experience issues from Jan 2022 thru August 2022 and then it will auto-correct," a company representative supposedly said in a reply to online complaints. "Please be assured that we will continue to monitor this and will advise you if a fix is available before that time."

This however is not a statement Honda is willing to officially acknowledge at the moment. A company representative declined to confirm (but did not deny) the above statement as an official response, saying it may have been something a customer service representative said.

Honda, we were told, has not yet issued a formal advisory to owners at this point – in other words there are legal implications that follow from official declarations. In a statement email to The Register, a Honda US spokesperson confirmed the company is investigating the issue but could not provide further detail about the cause of the error.

"American Honda is aware of a potential concern related to the clock display on certain older Acura and Honda models equipped with navigation systems," a company spokesperson said. "We are currently investigating this issue to determine possible countermeasures and have no additional details to share at this time."

Coincidentally, The Register recently wrote about a bug in the open source gpsd software that risked setting clocks back to 2002 if not patched. Gpsd translates navigation satellite data into a format that's usable by client applications.

We asked Honda whether affected vehicles may have used an unpatched version of gpsd to handle GPS data translation for displaying the time in car navigation units. A Honda spokesperson said he could not provide additional information until the company's investigation of the problem concludes.

Don't panic

Gary Miller, the maintainer of gpsd, told The Register in an email that this doesn't sound like the GPS Week Roll Over (GWRO) bug that bit gpsd.

The GWRO subtracts exactly 1024 weeks (7168 days) from the current instant," he explained. "The hour and minute would be exactly the same, seconds off only by a few leap seconds."

Pointing to reports that clocks returned exactly to 1600, he said it sounded like a dead clock battery, a system reset, or perhaps a bad fix for the GWRO bug. He said he doesn't know when companies use gpsd because it's BSD 2-clause licensed and usage doesn't require disclosure.

"Corporate users of gpsd are loath to admit they use it," he said. "But this does not sound like any gpsd bug I heard of. The 4pm thing, if true, is a big clue. Bad GPS math would not always return to 4pm."

Technically inclined folk discussing the issue online have suggested Honda's software may have tried to store the date in a 32-bit signed integer, which has a maximum value of 2147483647 and wouldn't properly handle a larger numeric value like 2201010001 (as one would represent the date using digits in YYMMDDHHMM format).

In any event, Miller said, it's up to Honda to fix things because their system is closed source. ®

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