New Wi-Fi frequency could interfere with future connected cars
Automakers and others urge the FCC to guarantee safeguards if the adjacent spectrum is expanded.
The airwaves are getting more crowded as Wi-Fi connected consumer electronics proliferate. Because of this, the Federal Communications Commission wants to open a large portion of a new radio-frequency spectrum that would expand the channels on which Wi-Fi operates.
But as roadways get more crowded, another federal regulatory agency -- the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- and automakers want to connect cars using a neighboring spectrum. The problem? Potential interference between Wi-Fi devices on the new spectrum and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications on adjacent airwaves could cause problems.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that his agency was moving ahead with plans to clear 195 megahertz of spectrum in the 5-gigahertz band for Wi-Fi use. But the frequency borders the 5.9 GHz band that NHTSA set aside for future V2V communication networks that will allow cars to wirelessly “talk” to one another to avoid accidents.
Earlier this week, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America sent a letter to the FCC signed by transportation-industry heavy hitters including Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and AAA alerting the FCC that the new Wi-Fi networks could intrude on the wireless communication between connected cars.
“We support efforts to identify spectrum that may be utilized to expand Wi-Fi applications,” ISTA said in a statement. “But with over 30,000 deaths on our nation’s roads every year, we also believe it is critical that efforts to open up additional spectrum do not come at the expense of revolutionary lifesaving technologies.”
While widespread adoption of V2V technology still faces plenty of hurdles, sharing a spectrum doesn't help move it forward.
“The last thing the V2V initiative needs is a cloud being cast from potential interference from unlicensed use of the same spectrum,” Roger Lanctot, an automotive electronics analyst with Strategy Analytics, told MSN Autos. “The NHTSA-driven effort is already up against [automakers'] resistance to adding cost and weight and the even bigger barrier of chicken-and egg-deployment, along with the lack of a business model.”
In a field trial involving 3,000 vehicles currently under way in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Transportation Department and its auto industry partners are using a form of Wi-Fi technology to connect vehicles. This allows the vehicles to communicate with each other and the traffic infrastructure to share information such as speed and location. This experimental ad-hoc network, also under NHTSA testing, could reduce collisions by warning drivers of road hazards such as an accident or stalled car ahead, a vehicle pulling out of a “blind” intersection and dangerous highway conditions.
In its letter to the FCC, ISTA argues that the benefits of the V2V network could be negated and that the hundreds of millions of dollars the government and automakers have invested in developing the technology would be wasted. According to the tech blog Gigaom, the auto industry isn’t asking the FCC to halt its plan to expand the Wi-Fi spectrum, but that it guarantee protections would be in place to ensure that interference doesn’t occur.
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