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Consumer Confidential: The switch to 5G wireless could shut down SOS buttons in millions of cars

By David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Telecom companies want people to focus on the benefits of state-of-the-art 5G wireless technology: faster speeds, greater reliability.

But for possibly millions of car owners, the transition to 5G may mean you'll be losing something you value: your on-board emergency-contact system.

Simi Valley, Calif., resident Patrick O'Bryan received an email from Lexus the other day notifying him that his 2016 RX 350's Enform wireless emergency services will be terminated Oct. 31, 2022, as existing 3G technology gives way to 5G.

These services include the emergency-assistance button, automatic collision notification, enhanced roadside assistance, remote engine start, remote door unlock, vehicle finder help and other features.

The change will affect an unspecified number of Lexus vehicles sold between 2010 and 2018.

"These are regular features for expensive cars," O'Bryan, 76, told me. "I never dreamed they would end."

 

He added: "If I had known this would happen, I would have bought a different car."

It's well-known that a car starts depreciating in value as soon as you drive it off the lot. But it's remarkable that luxury vehicles purchased within the last few years would experience such a significant loss in functionality because of changing technology standards.

No less remarkable is that Lexus, for one, apparently has no intention to make customers whole by upgrading their vehicles' wireless systems.

I reached out to Lexus for comment. A spokesman passed along my request to Lexus' parent company, Toyota Motor Corp.

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