Emerging Tech

DOT wants to preserve spectrum for connected vehicle apps

connected vehicle (Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock.com) 

Spectrum reserved for autonomous vehicle safety transmissions is a key part of the Department of Transportation's effort to set the foundation for the U.S. connected-vehicle infrastructure, said one of its top managers.

"We do believe the spectrum should be preserved" for safety applications such as Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) in vehicle-to-vehicle technology, said Finch Fulton, the deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Transportation, told FCW after his remarks on autonomous vehicles at a "State of Autonomy" event on July 11.

The Transportation Department, Fulton said in his remarks, doesn't want to choose the technologies that will support the emerging self-driving vehicle revolution, but it can help set firm rules of the road for them. Dedicated spectrum to support vehicle safety transmissions is a key ingredient in the mix, he said, as are more efficient, less burdensome regulations.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in early June that he is interested in opening up spectrum for different unlicensed applications. The bandwidth would incorporate 75 MHz of the 5.9 GHz band that has been set aside for DSRC use. Advocates for repurposing the band say that DSRC use cases are few, and the band is being underutilized.

There are currently 80 deployments of DSRC around the country, according to Fulton's presentation at the event.

"We do need to see greater widespread use of this band," he said in his remarks, but the technology is reaching a "tipping point" that would bring more demand and technology to address it.

He told FCW that industry is "excited" about the bandwidth, and the department was helping to build a solid foundation for safe autonomous vehicle communications with the bandwidth.

"We're at the point, where [applications] are going to pick up," he said. "We need to make sure this band is preserved for traffic safety purposes." He urged industry to "make your voices are heard" about the spectrum and its potential for safety, stable connectivity and technical efficiencies.

"We do want to protect the spectrum.… We don't want to say 'it must be DSRC,' or that it must be some future 5G technology that's being developed," said Fulton. "We need to give the innovators the opportunity to come together to find the best technology that works in the long run. We don't want to be the chooser of technology, because the government doesn't have a great track record in that," he said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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