Smart Car Makers Worried About FCC's Wi-Fi Expansion

The United States Federal Communication Commission (FCC) decided on Thursday, Feb. 21 to expand the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi signals across the country.

The 5GHz WiFi band will be stretched from 5.150GHz to 5.925GHz, an expansion of about 35 percent. The increased spectrum will allow for faster Wi-Fi Internet in both homes and public spaces — but not everyone is cheering the FCC's decision.

Transportation groups and car makers, including Chrysler, Hyundai-Kia and Volvo have sent a letter to the FCC criticizing the ruling, claiming the expansion might hamper wireless networks that are supposed to decrease accidents.

These vehicle networks are currently in development and are intended to allow smart cars (like Google's self-driving automobiles) to communicate with each other and avoid collisions.

"The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), along with major automakers, safety advocates and transportation officials from across the country, are joining together to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect the 5.9 GHz band of spectrum set aside for connected vehicle technology — which is expected to save thousands of lives each year-from potentially harmful interference that could result from allowing unlicensed Wi-Fi-based devices to operate in the band," said the organization in a press release.

Although the ITS' statement might sound harsh, the groups involved aren't completely against the spectrum expansion. Instead, they want the FCC to look into any possible consequences, as well as delay its final decision until the Department of Transportation rules on how to deploy the new smart car network.

"The U.S. DOT, automakers and high-tech leaders have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop connected vehicle technology based on the availability of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band," said ITS America President and CEO Scott Belcher in the release. "We are at the cusp of it becoming reality, and we owe it to the American taxpayers to protect their investment and see this life-saving innovation through to implementation."

According to Ars Technica, the FCC recognizes the concerns of transportation groups and understands that "significant cooperation with federal agencies is needed" to ensure that smart car networks won't be interfered with.

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