V2V was always a fantasy to the auto industry, so it lost the spectrum war with the FCC

By TechThop Team

Posted on: 18 Aug, 2022

On its reallocation of part of the 5.9GHz band, the DC circuit court sided with the Federal Communications Commission. In the end, the FCC won, while the auto industry lost.

The auto industry had promised to use the airwaves for vehicle-to-vehicle communication and vehicle-to-everything communication in an effort to improve safety.  

Judge Justin Walker humorously points out in his opinion that this technology has never existed. There was always a promise of such an innovation 'just around the corner' but it was never actually delivered. As the court has basically stated today, it was a fantasy.  

DSRC services, which would improve highway safety through V2X technologies, were set aside 75 megahertz in the 5.9 gigahertz band by the FCC in 1999.

As a general rule, V2X allows vehicles to send and receive messages regarding road conditions, like traffic congestion, weather, or speeding cars. In addition, emergency braking could be applied based on that information to prevent crashes.  

Using V2V communications could assist autonomous vehicles in understanding their surroundings and making better driving decisions, according to some experts.

As a result, the rollout of V2X technology has been piecemeal in the auto industry. The E-Class and S-Class were both equipped with V2V equipment in 2017. V2V was also introduced by General Motors in 2017 in the Cadillac CTS. In recent years, other automakers have been exploring a newer technology called cellular V2X (C-V2X), which uses existing cell networks for communication.

An Obama-era mandate requiring V2V technology on new cars was repealed by the Trump administration in 2017. The FCC announced last year that some of the spectrum set aside for V2X would instead be used to expand Wi-Fi.

The FCC chair proposed allocating the upper 20MHz for C-V2X and the lower 45MHz for unlicensed use such as Wi-Fi. Automakers opposed the rule, arguing it would interfere with connected car technology if Wi-Fi was allowed to use parts of the spectrum.

They basically said we needed to wait until the FCC promised not to use some of the spectra for Wi-Fi before we could deploy V2V technology - the Alliance for Automotive Innovation committed to deploying 5 million pieces of V2V technology over the next five years.

Today, none of the vehicles on the road are using V2V technology in any meaningful way. According to Walker's decision, intelligent transportation systems failed to develop as the FCC hoped for the next twenty years. The 5.9 GHz band is not currently being used for vehicle safety features in commercially marketed vehicles as of 2020.'

Several transportation associations are arguing to keep 5.9GHz exclusively for transportation purposes in this case, including the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

FCC's spectrum allocation authority was vetoed by the Department of Transportation, according to the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. This argument, however, is rejected by Judge Walker.

As Walker notes, new technologies, such as radar, LIDAR, cameras, and sensors, will help make up the difference with the remaining 30MHz of spectrum. Walker agrees with the FCC that the remaining spectrum is sufficient for intelligent transportation systems.  

According to the judge, there are no significant developments related to these 'as-yet-to-arrive technologies' that warrant more than 30MHz of the spectrum, as claimed by the petitioners.

Our ears have been preached to the tune of V2V technology thousand times over the past few years. Since the beginning of the century, every CES has featured some demonstration of the promised innovations: visibility through walls, traffic light communication, etc.  

However, these promised innovations never materialized, according to the FCC and Walker. It's still not too late to put something in motion - and with a smaller slice of the spectrum than before.

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