Do Modern Cars Have Tracking Devices?

Was trying to get info from the googler but not having much luck. Still looking to get a RAV4 (soonish) but was wondering about onboard tracking devices (being the paranoid nutjob that I am). Are the onbard GPS units built into the entertainment head unit passive units, as in they receive satellite data but don't transmit any data? Do modern cars have some kind of SIM card that connects to the mobile phone grid? Can the cops immobilise the car while I'm driving it?

Just trying to get a handle on how it all works.


  • +16

    I think vaccines do.

    • :)

      Does Toyota make them?

      • Ha ha..
        AFAIK GPS is one-way communication and the live traffic information is delivered via RDS or satellite radio streams. You don't need to worry about Toyota Rav 4. Mercedes had (has) the capability to browse the internet from their multimedia console.

      • No Huawei.

  • +5

    Work cars - many do, for digital logbook purposes

    Private cars - no, unless you yourself put them there
    or do a lot of business with bikies

  • Tesla may have GPS tracking…. But my budget is not big enough to buy one.

  • Sweet, thanks. :)

    In that case how to the built-in GPS unit update their maps these days?

    (Edit, no worries, looks like the dealer updates them)

    • +1

      You don't bother to update, just use Google Maps or Waze.

    • If you can call them updates. They’re around 5 years out of date when new. I believe there may be a 2018 or 2019 update for the actual maps, otherwise it’s a software update at best- and they’ll charge you for it!

    • +1

      In that case how to the built-in GPS unit update their maps these days

      When you take it in for a service, your dealer's service center will complete the updates (if an update has been published by the manufacturer).
      However, after a few years they usually suspend the updates as your car is probably out of warranty by then.

      As for Tesla or other smart electric vehicles with SIM cards, they can update their maps automatically and track you in real time.
      The SIM card with a cellular connection also makes it very easy for hackers to remote into your vehicle as you are driving it, and mess with you. 🦹‍♂️

  • +8

    Wrap your car with tin foil :)

    • +5

      Tried that, was too hard to see out.

      • +2

        It's what the cameras are for, ask for front cam too.

        or drive using your dashcam

  • +1

    I don't think many transmit data but all cars made after a certain date have a drive data recorder for diagnostics and post crash analysis. I assume you drive with your phone turned off if you're asking this question.

    • Kinda. VPN on and location off. (Though I suspect they have other ways. : ) )

      • You're right 'they' do have other ways - You really should have a look at the Joe Rogan interview of Edward Snowden on Youtube - just search for "Edward Snowden: How Your Cell Phone Spies on You".

        Here you go -

        • Thanks. Yep I have seen that one. I can always leave my phone at home, not so easy with a car. :)

  • If you wait too long, they'll fit it with "Toyota Connected Services" which is a gps tracker/logger essentially.

    Though no family member etc is allowed to just call Toyota and find out where you are

    • Ok, what is the timeframe for that? And would they be able to do that if I brought it in for a future service or is it different hardware?

      • No idea, and nope

  • Think about this the other way, who is paying for these uploads of your location? It's a few bucks a month to have a mobile service with a small amount of uploads, and knowing where you are isn't worth that much. It'd cost even more if it was audio/video.

    Let alone the fact that someone would notice eventually and drag the company name through the muck.

  • Yes… even worse if its not made in Australia.

  • +1

    Yes to GPS if they have inbuilt navigation (I think). but no I very much doubt the police can immobilise you vehicle via this, otherwise they’d be doing it for stolen vehicles etc. My work wanted to track car usage and movement so they installed an extra device and told all employees it was there - these were government vehicles, so presumably if there was something inbulit they wouldn’t have bothered.

    • +1

      GPS is one way, it can only receive, similar to TV or radio.

      • wait really?! I thought it was both ways, how else can it accurately tell where you are and how fast you're going?

        • Nope it's one way. Lots of articles online how GPS works if you're curious. It's very interesting.

          • @Presence: Interesting… So 4 or more satellites are required to pinpoint location, a receiver to receive the the coordinates which is what you're holding onto, and ground stations to check on that receiver. Well I don't even know how to tell where I am by looking at the stars, but the concept appears to be the same….

  • You know your phone does right?

  • +1

    Yes, newer models are here/coming with such services built-in:

    "Your Toyota agent will coordinate with the police** and provide them with your vehicle’s location information."

    ** Who won't give two $h!t$

  • They don't need the car to track you it's to limited they much prefer the tracking chip/listening bug most people have in there pocket

    • tracking chip/listening bug most people have in their lap at the lights


  • Just driven the new Yaris, and can tell that the amount of tech in it, for a little city runaround, is a little bit of concern. So much can go wrong with it and what happens if you really rely on these features and they fail, and one day they will. Even without using the GPS unit the vehicle mentioned a number of times to obey by all traffic rules that can happen even if you accidentally exceed the speed limit by a few kilometres before returning back below the limit. I think, yes, the future will be about reporting on driver's behaviour and possibly even fining them, stopping the car, or overriding the driver and driving the car where they want, when the autonomous systems are functioning. They may eventually even force the driver to have a reviving stop, beside other features…

    • +2

      "accidentally exceed the speed limit by a few kilometres "

      Good training. It seems there's a need for a refresher course for drivers to remind them that posted speed limits are maximums roughly once a week.

    • Yeah, that's a feature on all new Toyota GPS systems which is very easy to turn off (it's an option in the settings).

      I do love the bit where you say the functions will fail… I can't say I've ever had something like ABS, cruise control etc fail on older cars, nor heard of really anyone saying their cruise control failed…

      Tho I guess you're one of these people who also forget the large computer that controls the engine…

  • +4

    It is comment like this that prove the ignorance of you conspiracy theorists… U don't event understand that the GPS & SIM / mobile technologies are different. Perhaps if u educated urself u shouldn't be so paranoid and take off that ton foil hat!

    • Hey thanks. Yeah that's kinda why I asked the question. :)

    • I’ll just leave this here for you. Be aware, there are MANY “people” who believe this, despite the obvious absurdity.


      • +1

        Nice, that will explain why they get messed up by 5G towers! :)

    • OP must have a strong neck if he's wearing a ton foil hat.

  • +1

    Does your radio have bluetooth? Does your phone have bluetooth. I strongly suspect the answer to both is "yes".

    The way your phone and radio communicate with each other, and not with any random device that is near, is they both have a permenant and unique 'address'. While this in itself doesn't carry any further identification than 'I am "this"' they are broadcast. In S.A., when you see the signs advising you "X minutes to Y via route Z" the traffic volumes and speeds are assessed by, among other methodologies, the unique bluetooth transmissions detected by the shark-fin receivers you can notice on top of the green traffic-signal control boxes at intersections.

    Can you be tracked. Yes. Are you being personally tracked, probably not. Would it be trivially possible to note where your purchases were made, the general area where phone calls and texts are received over a short period of time, and where your wi-fi was active if left on. Yes. Does your vehicle have a plate on both the front and the back with unique identifiers that move at the same speed as any transmitter inside the vehicle…

    Whether or not any agency with the capability of perfroming such tracking would bother is a mute point. You secrets are probably still secrets between you, Google, Facebook and your mobile provider.

  • Don't buy vehicles manufactured by Racebook.

  • They will track your phone, and/or your passenger's phone.

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