Carmakers Pledge 5 Million ‘Talking Cars’ in FCC Airwaves Bid


(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. auto industry will deploy millions more wireless systems to help prevent traffic collisions if the Federal Communications Commission abandons a proposal that would take away most of the radio frequencies reserved to carry those signals, according to an industry trade association.

If the commission agrees to preserve those airwaves for vehicle safety, auto companies will install at least five million so-called vehicle-to-everything radios on vehicles and roadside infrastructure over the next five years, far more than have been deployed so far, Alliance for Automotive Innovation President John Bozzella said in a Thursday letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The group represents most major carmakers in the U.S.

It’s the auto sector’s latest bid to maintain a 21-year grip on coveted radio airwaves that the FCC reserved in 1999 to link cars, roadside beacons and traffic lights into a seamless wireless communication web to help avoid collisions and alert drivers to road hazards, among other uses. After years of development and few commercial deployments to date, critics contend the airwaves have been underutilized and should be used instead to expand access to high speed Wi-Fi.

In an interview, Bozzella said the scope of the industry’s commitment demonstrates that the sector is ready to deploy the connected-vehicle systems in larger numbers, so long as the FCC lets automakers maintain full use of that spectrum.

“Those 75 megahertz were granted to save lives on America’s roadways. Let’s not wait any longer to get that done and that’s why we’ve stepped forward with this significant commitment,” he said.

Under Pai the FCC in December proposed assigning most of the airwaves in question to Wi-Fi or a newer auto safety system, and relegating the older connected-car technology to a sliver. The change needs another vote to pass the FCC.

The plan is backed by cable companies and others hungry for additional wireless bandwidth and opposed by automakers in addition to both state and federal transportation officials, who argue it will undercut road safety.

The FCC on Thursday will vote on a plan to give Wi-Fi a different, far larger swath of radio spectrum.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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