Regulation

FCC Votes To Move Connected Car Safety Features To Broadband

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could allow mobile devices to command the airwaves that have been used by carmakers for vehicle safety, Bloomberg reported on Thursday (Dec. 12).

The FCC’s move to advance the plan clashed with highway authorities who said that the airwaves band is used to reduce crash deaths.

A 5-0 vote on Thursday by the FCC proposed to advance the plan to split a block of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band that was reserved in 1999 for automakers to develop technology, but has so far gone largely unused. A second vote and comment period are necessary before the vote can become effective.

“After two decades of dormancy” the airwaves swath “deserves a fresh look by the FCC,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told Bloomberg, calling the proposal balanced. He added that it “will advance both unlicensed wireless innovation and automotive safety technologies.”

Two associations serving most car manufacturers denounced the FCC’s move, indicating that the car business is ready to take advantage of connected vehicle technologies including “critical safety communications” using the whole band of airwaves.

“The pending action by the FCC risks lives, slows innovation and runs counter to what the commission has heard from safety and technical experts,” the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said in a joint statement.

Some automakers, as well as the U.S. Transportation Department, oppose the FCC proposal and favor using the airways for developing technology that would allow vehicles to exchange data about location, speed and direction.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said the department still had “significant concerns” and asked that any proposal not be advanced until those issues are better addressed. She warned that pushing the proposal through could lead to “thousands more deaths” in traffic accidents.

The technology is currently offered on Cadillac CTS. Government studies indicate that if the technology was widely adopted, at least 600,000 crashes could be prevented annually.

In April, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai indicated plans to announce new airwave auctions to telecommunications companies to facilitate the 5G. 

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