Chances are good that you did not think much about older 3G cellular networks, because all the talk today is about 5G – the super-fast new network for smartphones and other wireless devices. But as Consumer Reports explains, if wireless carriers start closing those old 3G networks, millions of connected cars could lose important security features.
Consumer Reports has said for years that a car is a computer on wheels, and in many cases it is also a mobile.
“Almost every car today has a built-in internet connection. And that can be used for safety features, such as being able to automatically call for help in a crash or convenience features like being able to start the car remotely or check to see if the doors are locked or unlocked, “Consumer Reports Auto Editor Keith Barry laid out.
But for millions of cars on the road today, that technology relies on an outdated 3G wireless network. By the end of this year, all major cellular carriers will be permanently shutting down their 3G networks.
“Car manufacturers have known for years that 3G networks are shutting down, but as recently as 2019 they are putting 3G technology in new cars, knowing that as soon as the 3G network shuts down customers will be left without access to some of these services, “said Barry.
Some cars already have 4G capability, so you might just need to run a software update at home – the same way you would on a phone or laptop – to keep your car connected to services.
Others will require a hardware upgrade, and for many car owners this may cost. But knowing what updates your car might need is not that easy.
“When we reported this story, we found it very difficult to figure out what cars were going through it. We had to go into the owners’ manuals and look at technical documents to find out,” Barry said.
Best advice – ask your dealer if and when the connected services on your car are set to expire.
You can also check your make and model online at the Consumer Reports website.