Automakers Warn of Spectrum Sharing Interference with Safety Technologies


WASHINGTON — Allowing unlicensed Wi-Fi devices to share spectrum with connected vehicles must not be permitted without thorough testing, said automakers in comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers submitted joint comments in response to an FCC proposal to allow unlicensed wireless devices to operate in the 5.9 GHz frequency band that has been designated for exclusive use for “time-critical” Vehicle-to-Vehicle and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communications.

“Vehicle-to-Vehicle safety technologies have the potential to significantly reduce automobile crash fatalities and injuries on our highways,” said Mike Stanton, Global Automakers’ president and CEO. “There is no room for error in vehicle safety and we want the FCC to do its homework to ensure there is no risk involved with spectrum sharing.”

Automakers are concerned that opening up the 5.9 GHz frequency band to other wireless uses could cause harmful interference and affect the integrity of these safety critical communications among cars, trucks, other road users, and road equipment such as traffic lights. Communications delays of even thousandths of a second matter when dealing with auto and highway safety.

“Automakers support the need to explore spectrum sharing,” said Alliance President and CEO Mitch Bainwol. “However, we must understand that the future of auto safety lies in crash avoidance. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it believes connected vehicle technology could potentially address approximately 80 percent of crash scenarios involving non-impaired drivers.”

“But these critical safety systems require that communications go through every time without delay. That’s why automakers have concerns with the 5.9 GHz frequency band becoming congested,” Bainwol added.

Automakers, government agencies, and others have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the research, development, and testing of connected vehicle technologies. Currently, 10 major automakers and numerous technology providers have been working with the Department of Transportation’s Connected Vehicle Research Program in a pilot study of Vehicle-to-Vehicle performance in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Nearly 3,000 cars, trucks, and transit buses are testing Vehicle-to-Vehicle and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure technologies.

The data from the pilot study will be used for future potential regulatory decisions regarding communications systems for crash avoidance. Both associations and their members have committed to working with the FCC and other stakeholders to address these concerns.