You Can’t Just Slap a Starlink Dish Onto Your Car, California Motorist Finds Out

You Can’t Just Slap a Starlink Dish Onto Your Car, California Motorist Finds Out
Screenshot: California Highway Patrol

Somebody got the bright idea to slap a Starlink satellite dish on the hood of their car, and now they’re paying the price.

On Friday, a California Highway Patrol officer ticketed a motorist driving a Toyota Prius that had what appears to be a Starlink antenna attached to its hood, according to a Facebook post from the agency.

“Sir I stopped you today for that visual obstruction on your hood. Does it not block your view while driving?” the officer said, as quoted on CHP Antelope Valley’s Facebook page. At which point the driver assured them: “Only when I make right turns.”

The driver, who received a ticket for a moving violation, told the officer that they were using the antenna to get wifi for a business they run out of the car, a CHP representative told CNBC.

“Yes, it is in fact illegal to mount a satellite dish to the hood of your vehicle, obstructing your view under section 26708(a)(2) of the California Vehicle Code,” CHP Antelope Valley said on Facebook. “You also may not hang things from your rear view mirror, mount a GPS or cell phone in an unapproved location on your windshield, or display a handicap placard while the vehicle is in motion under this section. It’s about safety folks.”

Starlink is SpaceX’s fast-growing high-speed internet service that relies on more than 1,500 satellites orbiting Earth. Since launching its open beta in February, the network has surpassed 60,000 active users across 12 countries, and the company aims to hit roughly 500,000 users by this time next year, according to CEO Elon Musk.

While unconfirmed, the driver may have gotten this harebrained idea from Musk himself. As the Verge notes, Musk once said in a 2020 earnings call that Starlink terminals are so small — about the size of a pizza — that he supposed “technically, you could buy one and just stick it on the car.”

Of course, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. He later backtracked on Twitter, noting that the terminals weren’t designed to be put on cars, but rather intended for larger vehicles such as aircraft, ships, trucks, and RVs to connect to the company’s satellite network. To this end, SpaceX has reportedly requested authorization from the Federal Communications Commission to connect its terminals to moving vehicles.

In the meantime, if you really need Wi-Fi on the go, maybe try exploring less illegal options, such as investing in a mobile hotspot or tethering your phone instead.