Attention Automakers: Ajit Pai is Not Your Friend
Two decades ago, the Federal Communications Commission decided to allocate a portion of the radio frequency spectrum for Dedicated Short Range Communications ( DSRC). The plan was to utilize that slice of the airwaves for ultra-modern automotive technologies relating to vehicle-to-vehicle and/or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity on those channels.
The automotive industry was concerned it might need dedicated frequencies for use in autonomous-vehicle applications or some, yet unknown, technological advancement. But cable companies are annoyed that it’s being “wasted” and have started to antsy. They’ve asked the FCC to revoke carmakers’ exclusive rights to the frequencies and reallocate the majority of the 5.9-GHz band to the Wi-Fi systems that currently carry internet traffic for cable customers.
Hoping to encourage the commission to see things its way, Ford took FCC Chairman Ajit Pai out for a ride in an extra-special F-150 to plead its case. However, I feel like I can already predict whose side he’s going to take on this issue… and it isn’t going to be the automakers’.
FCC Prepares Repeal On Net Neutrality: Autonomous Car Victory or Orwellian Nightmare?
You’ve no doubt heard about net neutrality over the last few years. But, in case you haven’t, net neutrality is the principle that forces Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet equally. It forbids them from discriminating on subject matter or charging different fees based upon the user, site content, website, platform, application, or method of delivery. Essentially, it makes the internet into a tap where you pay one flat fee for access to all content.
That could soon change. On Tuesday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to repeal the landmark neutrality order from 2015. FCC head Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Donald Trump in January, said last year that he believed net neutrality’s “days were numbered.”
Pai has been criticized for being overly supportive of telecom companies. But a few automakers support his cause, as some of the FCC’s regulations have been at odds with autonomous car development.
FCC Makes Room on the Airwaves for Autonomous Vehicles
Despite the Federal Communications Commission making a mess of net neutrality right now, it remains capable of serving corporate interests and the general public simultaneously. On Thursday, the FCC quintupled the allocation of the radio spectrum used for motor vehicle and aircraft radar systems to help avoid crashes.
While the majority of autonomous cars also use laser guidance and a complex network of cameras to navigate, radar remains an integral component. Presently, the 1 GHz of spectrum set aside in 1995 has been sufficient for self-driving vehicles using adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency braking. But we’re about to enter an era of connected cars that will be required to “speak” to one another, and those vehicles will need plenty of space to talk — 5 GHz of bandwidth, to be precise.