Carmakers and drivers contend with connectivity obsolescence

Dec. 19, 2016

Some owners of BMW AG models could wake up New Year’s Day to find their cars have lost connectivity as AT&T shuts down its 2G service, used by BMW Assist. Other carmakers using other carriers will face a similar problem as older cellular services are discontinued, according to Adrienne Roberts, writing in The Wall Street Journal.

BMW customers can receive a retrofit, or, should they opt to rely on their cellphones for roadside services and navigation, they can receive a $200 gift card or a $300 voucher for BMW accessories.

Writes Roberts, “Car companies have been frustrated by owners showing little interest in using embedded telematics services, instead opting to use Samsung Electronics Co. or Apple Inc. smartphones for mapping services, streaming music and other connected services.” She adds that more than half of vehicle owners don’t use the services after the first 90 days of ownership, according to J.D. Power.

Roberts quotes Tahmina Hassanein, who sold BMWs for several years, as saying of the upgrades, “Some people think ‘I’m not going to bother with this,” but “it’s to [the customer’s] benefit to have a more intelligent car.”

Roberts continues, “BMW customer Joe Parenteau agreed. His 2014 BMW sedan was broadsided by a vehicle traveling 40 miles an hour in Portland, OR, last year. The collision set off his air bags and locked his seat belt, and he heard a woman’s voice through his vehicle, asking him if he was injured—and then the person on the other end of the line unlocked the car’s doors and called the police.”

Parenteau expressed frustration that a two-year-old car would need the cellular retrofit. Roberts says BMW intends to make its hardware more easily upgradeable and to make it easier to change wireless providers.

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