FCC Approves Standard for Cars to Talk With Each Other

Posted: 16 December 2019 4:26 pm
Self drive autonomous vehicle

Self drive autonomous vehicle

The communications regulator unanimously approves proposal to replace existing car-to-car communication technology.

It has been a challenge to build a fully automated self-driving car. While many cars today offer some form of driving automation, such as parking assist or collision detection, most automatic driving solutions have had problems negotiating other vehicles or coping with the randomness of human drivers and pedestrians. These challenges have pushed back Tesla’s launch of its driverless car, for example, which was originally slated for launch by the end of this year.

“There was a sense maybe a year or two ago, that ‘Oh, our algorithms are so good! We’re ready to launch,” Avideh Zakhor, professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer sciences department, explained to CNBC. “We’re gonna launch driverless cars any minute.’ And then obviously there’s been the setbacks of people getting killed or accidents happening, and now we’re a lot more cautious.”

One possible solution to addressing the driverless car safety issue is cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X), a proposed vehicle communication standard that would, in effect, connect a vehicle to everything affecting the vehicle — including other cars, the road management system, alert systems and pedestrians. On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission agreed to allocate some of the upcoming 5G spectrum to the new standard.

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released by the FCC, the proposal would divide the 75 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band reserved for dedicated short-range communications — a proposed but never achieved radio service for vehicle-based communications — into two sub-bands. The lower 45 megahertz sub-band would be opened to unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi. The upper 30 megahertz sub-band would be set aside for C-V2X.

“The Commission’s decision to revisit use of the band was prompted by the slow deployment of the DSRC service, the emergence of new transportation and other communication technologies, and escalating demand for unlicensed operations like Wi-Fi,” the FCC press release reads. “The NPRM seeks to achieve a balanced approach that will both improve automobile safety and unleash more wireless innovation for the benefit of the American people.”

C-V2X offers vehicles the opportunity to expand vehicle communications beyond the simple location and trajectory broadcasts some cars already offer to bidirectional communications that could help cars determine, for example, approach order at turn signals, lane merging clearance and following distances. A car equipped with C-V2X could be alerted of an accident ahead and negotiate away from it.

A C-V2X-equipped car may also be able to detect the mobile signal of a pedestrian that jaywalks ahead of the car’s path, prompting the car to slow down or to brake. C-V2X effectively gives cars the equivalence of situational awareness, meaning that it must rely less on a human to make critical determinations.

C-V2X is already available on 4G networks. However, Release 16, which is expected in mid-2020, will allow multiple cars to communicate together at low latency. Release 1 will be 5G-exclusive, allowing cars to operate as a platoon, with all member vehicles communicating together seamlessly.

“Our bet on DSRC didn’t pan out the way we thought it would. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board has said it will be up to three decades before the majority of vehicles on the road have DSRC capability — which is what is needed for this safety technology to be truly effective. Fifty years from spectrum start to finish is a long time. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping we will have flying cars by then,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

“So it’s time to take a fresh look at this band and see if we can update our commitment to safety and also develop more unlicensed opportunities for Wi-Fi.”

The NPRM was approved unanimously by all five commissioners.

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