Is an Open 5.9GHz Band a threat to New Automotive Technology?

By Steve Anderson June 23, 2014

No matter what innovation that one cares to name when it comes to the Internet—streaming video, Web-based real time communications (WebRTC), machine-to-machine (M2M) communications—it all requires one common thread to run: bandwidth. Without bandwidth, the download doesn't go; the connection doesn't get made, and so on. It's that same bandwidth that has the Association of Global Automakers concerned about new legislation posed in Congress targeting the 5.9GHz band.

The legislation in question, recently introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) would open the 5.9GHz band to users without license of any sort. Under normal circumstances, this might sound like a good thing; opening up spectrum might well give new industry a chance to rise, maybe help provide Internet access to all those parts of the country where it's in short supply beyond the dial-up level. But an issue threatened to make this a bad idea and potentially a moot point.

Not so long ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offered the 5.9 GHz spectrum to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for use in its Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) line. In turn, many automakers and other businesses looked to the 5.9 GHz spectrum as a way to bring out more in the line of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, which includes such things as collision prevention tools and a variety of others. Without the 5.9 GHz spectrum, the Association of Global Automakers president and CEO John Bozzella noted, it would represent a serious issue in terms of getting such tools in play.

Bozzella elaborated, saying “The lifesaving benefits of V2V communications are within reach. Given what's at stake, an ill-informed decision on this spectrum is a gamble. We appreciate the Senators' willingness to work with us to address our concerns with the bill. It is critical that we continue to collaborate on ways to engineer, examine, and evaluate proposed spectrum sharing strategies to ensure that harmful, potentially life-threatening, interference does not occur.”

The technology in question is reportedly near deployment, and vehicles numbering in, at last report, the thousands containing this technology are already being tested on public roads. V2V technology could potentially address 80 percent of crashes not directly dealing with those who drive drunk or otherwise impaired, potentially preventing as many as 12,000 crashes per day.

What's actually quite good about all this is that the Association of Global Automakers isn't automatically demanding that everyone stay out of the 5.9GHz band but the Association. The quotes made it pretty clear that there's some room to work together on this one, and that's good news for all concerned. While there's room for spectrum to be put to work all over, it's hard to turn down several thousand crashes per day, not to mention what the 5.9GHz spectrum could mean in terms of the self-driving car or the like. V2V systems have some great potential, and it would be a shame to cut that potential off too soon. The end result here is that there's room for all, but we all have to be careful in which order we proceed. Go too far in one direction and we may step on the metaphorical toes of a good announcement before its time.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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