Carmakers Win Use of Airwaves for Advanced Safety System

FCC Ruling Opens Up Frequencies to Auto Safety Tech
Cars move along during rush hour traffic on the US 101 Freeway
Cars move along during rush hour traffic on the US 101 Freeway in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

U.S. regulators cleared automakers to use systems that let vehicles communicate wirelessly with one another, offering a path forward for life-saving technology after years of disputes that saw Detroit lose airwaves to Silicon Valley.

The Federal Communications Commission said the technology could now use frequencies that had been reserved for an older system that wasn’t widely deployed.

“This a big deal,” said Hilary Cain, a vice president focused on technology at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation trade group that represents carmakers. “The FCC’s move today means we’re closer to getting this innovation into more vehicles and in the real world.”

The technology lets vehicles “see around corners, talk to other vehicles and communicate — in real-time — with pedestrians, bicyclists, traffic lights and infrastructure,” Cain said in an email.

The FCC redeployed most auto-safety airwaves in 2020, dedicating them instead to Wi-Fi offered by tech companies, as the automakers’ safety system was taking too long to roll out. At the time, the agency told automakers to plan on using the newer safety system in the frequencies left to them. Monday’s order, in the form of a waiver, lets carmakers use most of the remnant airwaves while the FCC moves toward final rules.

Those requesting the waiver included Audi of America, Ford Motor Co., Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as technology companies, the FCC said.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: