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Kagan: Your car may lose wireless navigation system in 2022

Here we go again. A decade ago, luxury cars like Lexus and Cadillac which uses OnStar really screwed up. When the wireless 2G signal was turned off, they and customers lost their navigation and emergency services. You would think OnStar, carmakers and the wireless industry would have learned their lesson and never let this happen again to them and their customers. However, it looks like they did not.

Back then, Lexus used the OnStar system and branded their version of the service Lexus Link. Today, I am told Lexus still uses OnStar for their Enform navigation service.

So far, only Lexus has started to notify customers their service will end next year… once again.

I don’t yet know what plans the automotive industry has for these services going forward, but other companies like Mercedes Benz is planning to continue offering this service. That is a competitive advantage they will enjoy.

That says to me OnStar, Enform and others will likely come back again like they did a decade ago.

In fact, there are quite a few different navigation services in the market today. They are being used by Ford, Nissan, BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Lexus, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and several others.

I do not know which will convert from 3G to 4G and which will not. However, this is a problem the industry experienced a decade ago and it looks like many are going to go through this problem all over again.

Drivers will lose OnStar, Lexus Enform in 2022

While 10 years ago the problem was only with luxury vehicles, today so many every day cars use it, and more are being bought every day. This means this could be a disaster for many drivers worldwide.

I will discuss OnStar and Enform but affected cars across the board could experience this same problem next year.

The reason this is going to happen again in 2022 is because the wireless 3G signal will be turned off. This is something everyone who follows the wireless industry knew would happen. So, how could OnStar and Enform executives be so blind?

This is very poor planning by automakers, OnStar and the wireless carriers. This problem was totally avoidable and is entirely unacceptable to the customer.

What’s the old saying… fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Customers hoped the automotive industry navigation services would have learned their lesson the first time. Now customers are asking, why didn’t they?

The commercial side of this industry powers navigation services for businesses with their fleets of trucks and delivery vehicles. These companies have been granted an extension of several years. That’s unfortunately not the case on the consumer side.

OnStar, Lexus Enform shut down should have been avoided

Lexus has begun warning their customers their Enform service will be terminated in 2022.

OnStar may not yet have started to notify their customers yet. However, if Lexus is losing their service, it is only logical to assume OnStar customers will as well since I am told Enform uses OnStar.

OnStar is the service behind lots of automobiles, including most if not all GM cars including Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet and more. OnStar is a GM company.

So, all these vehicles and brands with these features are all in the same boat.

I do not know which services each carmaker uses and whether this will impact all automobiles or just some of them.

Some may dodge this bullet. Others may not.

However, any way you slice it, there is no excuse. This should have been prepared for. There is no excuse for putting valued customers through this kind of hell all over again.

Car makers need customer trust for Automated Driving

The automotive industry expects users to trust them as they move forward with self-driving cars, automated driving and more. And while this technology will be a giant leap forward, the industry is only hurting itself with customer trust.

You see, for a driver to trust their car can drive itself, they have to trust the carmaker. And this OnStar and Enform service loss short-circuits this building of trust.

This will only hurt the automotive industry efforts to move forward. That means they are shooting themselves in the foot as well losing a competitive advantage.

OnStar, Enform shutdown will negatively impact carmakers

This is not the first time the automotive industry was caught by surprise. A decade ago, these services used the wireless 2G network. This service as also shut down when the 2G network was turned off.

That was bad enough, but with the way technology was rapidly advancing we cut the automotive industry some slack. But this should never happen again.

The problem is that it is getting ready to.

What the automotive industry, working with the wireless networks should have done was make the next version upgradeable. Knowing 3G won’t last forever either, they should have created an upgradable navigation and emergency service.

OnStar and Enform should be upgradable

Will the automotive industry ever learn to make technology upgradable?

However, even if they do prepare this next time, this does nothing to help the customers who already own one of their vehicles with this feature which will soon be non-functional.

This is very disappointing performance of the automotive industry.

This is serious for quite a few users. Many depend on these services. That’s why they make sure they have it on their cars. And they should have it no matter how long they own the vehicle.

Many users simply use their smartphones with Google Maps or Apple Maps. So, at least there is a partial solution which did not exist when 2G was shut off.

But that means attaching your phone to your windshield and not using it while you are driving. It’s not the same experience by any stretch. No one to ask for directions. No emergency services to call for help even if you can’t.

Some buyers keep cars for a decade or longer. Especially, the luxury vehicles. Some buy these cars used and expect the same features. In fact, they pay extra for these features.

However, owners of many different luxury vehicle brands, which depends on this valuable feature will be out of luck as of mid 2022.

Apple Play and Android Auto may be next

Apple Play and Android Auto are two features some car makers are adding to their newer cars. This is a good addition, but it does not take the place of a good navigation and emergency services of OnStar, Lexus Enform and others.

Perhaps OnStar will simply go away. Perhaps the future is services like Apple Play and Android Auto. If that is the case the automotive industry is leaving the marketplace in the dark. All their customers are preparing to have their services turned off and have no alternative.

Maybe moving to Apple Play and Android Auto in the future will be the way the industry goes.

However, what about all the customers who have cars before these services were installed.

Apparently, they are out of luck.

I stopped into a dealership and spoke with the manager who knew too well of this problem. Bottom line, they said either the service would shut down, or the carmaker would come up with a fix. However, he didn’t really know.

So, that’s where we are today. We can only hope the automobile makers and the wireless industry will work together to solve this problem, long-term. It should be as easy as a replacement 4G or 5G connector.

If carmakers want to make an investment, they can keep the service active and keep their customers happy. I would advise them to keep the trust with their customers they should do that.

Otherwise, the harm to their brand will be significant. So, all we can do now is wait to see if they do the right thing. Every month that passes without a resolution has their customers worried and that degrades the power of their brand. We will be watching very closely.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Jeff Kagan
Jeff Kaganhttp://jeffkagan.com
Jeff is a RCR Wireless News Columnist, Industry Analyst, Key Opinion Leader and Influencer. He shares his colorful perspectives and opinions on the companies and technologies that are transforming the industry he has followed for 35 years. Jeff follows wireless, wire line telecom, Internet, Pay-TV, cable TV, AI, IoT, Digital Healthcare, Cloud, Mobile Pay, Smart cities, Smart Homes and more.

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