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Car Owners See Effects Of 3G Phase Out In Lost Navigation, Safety Features

GROVELAND (CBS) - About two months ago, Scott Egan of Groveland started noticing some of his 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee's features were spotty, or not working at all. Features from traffic navigation to the emergency alert system were glitching.

"It did bother me a great deal because those are important features," Egan told WBZ-TV.

Because of research on online Jeep owner forums, he realized the problem - the nationwide phase out, or "sunset," of 3G.

Several major wireless companies have announced that they will phase out 3G service to create room for more advanced 4G and 5G service, but millions of car owners may not realize that this affects far more than their cell phones.

"You can think of this is when Betamax turned into VHS, and then you had DVDs and laser discs and now you have streaming," explained cyber security expert Peter Tran. "So eventually these platforms are going to get 'sunsetted' for more innovative, faster, efficient networks."

Tran explained that the phase out will impact millions of cars from 2015 and earlier.

Consumers have reported their infotainment systems, automatic starters, and emergency alert systems malfunctioning as the 3G phase out begins.

"Car manufacturers are well aware of this problem that is going to cause millions of cars to go out of band, meaning that they can no longer communicate," Peter Tran explained.

Manufacturers will need to develop some kind of technology upgrade, he explained, and alert customers in a way similar to a recall notice.

"A software upgrade may cost consumers anywhere from $300-to-$900," Tran said.

That news doesn't sit well with customers like Egan.

"It's bothersome that I would have to pay for features that are supposed to already function in the truck because of an obsolete technology," he explained.

Egan says he's also disappointed in a lack of communication from Jeep.

"The decision to phase out 3G network technology was made by the cellular carriers and is outside the control of our company," a spokesperson for Jeep told WBZ. "As more vehicles and devices are connected, 5G will be necessary and we are already planning for the advancement. That said, we want to continue offering our customers the most popular connected services by converting 3G vehicles to accept 4G."

In addition to the convenience issue, Egan worries about the safety features that no longer work properly. He and his wife regularly take trips to northern New Hampshire and rely on the Jeep's safety features.

"So, if something were to happen up there, hit a deer or a guard rail or an oncoming car, that 3G is essential for safety," he explained.

In the meantime, while customers wait for a fix, experts say the short-term solution is to go back to basics.

"[Like] when you used to roll down the window and you didn't have a phone," Tran explained. "The car will still drive. You can still get updates to it. So sometimes you have to go down to basics until they can actually bridge the gap" between the old technology and the new.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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