3G shutdown coming at cost to car safety features

PITTSBURGH — The phasing out of 3G networks to make room for faster 5G service comes at a cost, and that includes safety features on many cars.

From emergency buttons to GPS navigation and automatic crash notification systems, functions drivers rely on for safety and convenience could stop working in their cars. Even remote entry could be affected.

And it’s not just older model cars. Many carmakers continued to install 3G technology -- which they will now no longer support -- up to 2021 and even 2022.

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Yvette Brace’s 2015 BMW 5 Series has an SOS button, and it’s one of the reasons she bought the car.

“Especially if you are driving with young children, that safety feature is important, and it makes you feel safe driving in your car to know that button is there and you can get help right away,” Brace said.

But it will soon be rendered useless, along with her GPS.

“I received a notification through the mail that my car was going to be obsolete,” Brace said.

Brace’s car is one of many vehicles in this situation.

As automakers essentially walk away from critical safety features, wireless carriers stick by the fact that the 3G shutdown has been public knowledge for several years.

>>RELATED STORY: 3G shutdown: What does it mean for your devices?

Some carmakers are offering free upgrades, but others -- including Chrysler, Hyundai, Lexus, Nissan, Toyota and BMW -- are telling drivers they will lose their connectivity permanently.

Consumer advisor Clark Howard can’t believe automakers, such as BMW, are sending out notices that basically tell their customers that their remote systems won’t work and they won’t update them.

“That is not the way a luxury brand should operate. It’s not the way they should treat their customers,” Howard said.

Michael Brooks from The Center for Auto Safety said the impact to safety features is a big concern.

“I think it’s inevitable that it’s going to reduce the quality and efficiency of medical care that folks receive when they’re in crashes and there’s no one else around with them,” Brooks said.