In a joint letter, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) urged federal officials to revisit plans to open the 5.9 GHz wireless communication spectrum to non-transportation usage.
The March 11 letter addressed to three federal officials—U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; and Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council—expressed “significant concern” with efforts underway at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since November 2020 to reallocate spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band.
"Reducing the amount of spectrum available to Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technology undermines our shared interest in reducing the number of traffic injuries and fatalities that occur each year on U.S. roadways, improving motor vehicle safety and transportation equity, and improving the operational performance of roadways as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing congestion across the transportation system," the letter states.
The letter also notes that V2X technologies have the potential to significantly improve safety for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists—increasing transportation equity by preventing collisions that occur in low-income and minority communities in urban and rural areas.
The FCC in November adopted new rules for the 5.9 GHz band to make new spectrum available for unlicensed uses, such as Wi-Fi. Specifically, the FCC says the new band plan designates the lower 45 megahertz for unlicensed uses and the upper 30 megahertz for enhanced automobile safety using Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology.
"The U.S. has led the world in creating V2X technology and in developing the standards that enable and support V2X technology," the letter states. "The FCC’s proposal would cede American leadership as countries around the world are building out their V2X networks. There is no doubt that, if implemented, the NPRM would undercut the public and private investments that have been made in the United States, stifle further innovation, and challenge American global competitiveness."
The letter also notes that the comments and reply comments submitted to the FCC in response to the new rule overwhelmingly opposed repurposing spectrum away from transportation safety. "In fact, more than 85% of the commenters opposed the FCC’s proposal, including state and city departments of transportation, automakers, vehicle suppliers, technology companies, law enforcement, first responders, safety advocates, engineers, telecommunications companies, the drone industry, and many others."