Owners of older GPS units could face problems after April 6, with a bug linked to the way the global system resets the clock co-ordinating satellites.
Units sold before 2016 are likely to have their software set to a clock with a life of 1023 weeks, dating from the last time the reset happened, in 1999 - but French consumer watchdog 60 Millions de Consommateurs has said that 'meltdown'-style headlines in the media are alarmist.
It said the next reset will occur on April 6, adding in the majority of cases the worst that will happen is that the reset will simply disable functions linked to the clock, such as giving an estimated time of arrival, leaving map and localisation functions operating normally.
Older devices may, however, need to be updated to protect them from malfunctions. TomTom, which provides GPS units for Renault, is offering a free download of a patch for cars affected, with TomTom Carminat units using an update downloaded to the SD card in the unit, and R-Link TomTom systems an update downloaded to an USB flash drive.
TomTom’s own portable units can be updated, through the company’s website, with the company saying a 'small number' of older units bought between eight and 10 years ago may not be able to be updated. The company says it will offer discounts on new units for anyone whose machine is too old for an update.
“It is important that people do update their systems before April 6,” said a TomTom spokesman.
“We think that older units will just lose some of their time functions without an update, but it could have a knock-on effect with other functions so it is better to be sure you have it done.”
Details can be found at www.tomtom.com/updates.
Other devices like the company’s running watches, are not affected.
The last time the reset occurred, in 1999, GPS usage was mainly confined to the military, and a few specialist businesses.
Since then, units have become common, to the point that many makers of traditional paper motoring atlases have gone out of business.
Most systems bought in the last three years will not have any problems.
Systems built into cars, handheld units and on telephones are potentially affected.
PSA, which makes Peugeots, Citroëns and Opels, said: “Analysis by our technical experts shows that most of our systems are not sensitive to this bug.”
The company added that it is continuing to look at older systems and will communicate more on the subject when it has done so.
Garmin, the US company which is the other major supplier of GPS units, says that updates are available where necessary, and can be downloaded through its website.
Clients can find details of how to obtain and install the updates in the instruction leaflets which came with the unit.
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