Why automated vehicle advocates say the FCC dealt the nation a setback on safety

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On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, experts in intelligent transportation systems and connected and automated vehicle research react to Wednesday’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) action. Guests include Debra Bezzina, managing director of the Center for Connected and Automated Transportation at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), and Collin Castle, MDOT Intelligent Transportation Systems program manager.

The background: The five FCC members voted unanimously Wednesday to free up more spectrum for Wi-Fi, despite strong protests from all 50 state transportation departments, leading university research institutions and other national leaders. The vote allows for Wi-Fi usage in what's known as the 5.9 GHz band of spectrum. For more than 20 years, the spectrum has been set aside for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications using Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) technology.

"On Nov. 18, the FCC unanimously voted to value streaming video entertainment above human life," Bezzina said.

Later, Bezzina explains why the decision could ultimately devalue technology investments from UMTRI, MDOT and other agencies.

ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt was among those who reacted strongly to the commission's action. "ITS America is but one of dozens of transportation safety organizations that have been sounding the alarm about the implications of this action… In a time in which we are rightly focused on following science and data, it is inexplicable that the FCC is willfully disregarding the advice of experts," he told Traffic Technology Today.

Bezzina also questions the legality of the FCC action and predicts multiple lawsuits.

MDOT's Castle talks about why this represents a "pause" for progress in researching and supporting connected and automated vehicle development and what a transition to other technologies would look like and how to adapt devices. He also explains how DSRC works.
Connected vehicle photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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