Chances are you haven’t thought 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, when wireless carriers shut down their old 3G networks, millions of connected cars may lose important safety features.
Consumer Reports has said for years that a car is a computer on wheels. In many cases, it’s also a cell phone. Almost every car these days has an Internet connection built in that can be used for safety features — such as being able to automatically call for help in a crash — or for convenience, to start the car remotely, for example, or to check to see if the doors are locked or unlocked.
For millions of cars on the road today, that technology relies on an aging 3G wireless network. By the end of this year, all of the major cellular carriers will permanently shut down their 3G networks.
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Automakers have known this for years, but as recently as 2019, they were putting 3G technology into new vehicles, knowing that customers would be left in the lurch without access to some of these services.
Some vehicles already have 4G capability, so you may only have to do a software update at home — the same way you would for a phone or laptop — to keep your car’s connected services.
Others will require a hardware upgrade, and for many car owners, that may come at a cost. Knowing what updates your car may need isn’t so easy.
When CR was reporting this story, it was hard to figure out which cars were affected by it. It had to go to owner’s manuals and look at engineering documents to find out.
The best advice is to ask your dealer if and when the connected services on your car are set to expire. We’ve also got a link to Consumer Reports’ list of cars that could be affected by the 3G shutdown here.