5G update is leaving some cars without a working internet connection

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Chances are you haven’t thought much about older 3G cellular networks because today’s talk is about 5G, the super-fast new network for smartphones and other wireless devices. But as Consumer Reports explains, as wireless carriers begin shutting down those old 3G networks, millions of connected cars could lose essential safety features.

Consumer Reports has said for years that a car is a computer on wheels, and in many cases, it’s also a cell phone. Almost every vehicle these days has an internet connection built-in. And that can be used for safety features, like automatically calling for help in a crash, or convenience, like starting the car remotely or checking to see if the doors are locked or unlocked.

But for millions of cars on the road today, that technology relies on an aging 3G wireless network. And by the end of this year, all major cellular carriers will permanently shut down their 3G networks.

Automakers have known this for years, but as recently as 2019, they put 3G technology into new vehicles. They knew that customers would be left in the lurch without access to some of these services. Some cars already have 4G capability, so you may only have to do a software update at home as you would for a phone or laptop to keep your car’s connected services. Others will require a hardware upgrade, and that may come at a cost for many car owners. But knowing what updates your vehicle may need isn’t so easy.

When Consumer Reports was reporting this story, it was hard to figure out which cars were affected by it, and 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 expire. You can also check your make and model online or find Consumer Reports’ list of cars that could be affected by the 3G shutdown.

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