U.S. FCC Approves New Spectrum Block for Cars to Use

U.S., Federal Communications Commission, FCC, United States agency, safety

Vineeth Joel Patel
    Jul 22, 2017 9:00 AM  PT
U.S. FCC Approves New Spectrum Block for Cars to Use
author: Vineeth Joel Patel   

Back in 1995, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved 1 GHz of spectrum for radar systems on automobiles to use. The spectrum, according to a report by Reuters, was enacted to give tech companies and automakers the ability to engineer and develop safety tech, like collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control systems. These systems are all attributed to preventing thousands of automobiles accidents a year. 

Now, technology is so advanced, that the majority of vehicles are fitted with the aforementioned technologies as standard. And new safety tech requires cars to be fitted with radar systems that more advanced than ever, requiring them to operate on a higher spectrum. 

Raising The Bar For Safety

As Reuters reports, the FCC recently approved the allocation of a larger consolidated block of spectrum for cars to use, as well as aircraft radar systems to help continue improvements in safety systems. Automobiles, thanks to the FCC, will now be able to operate on 5 GHz of spectrum. The increase in spectrum will allow automakers and tech companies to improve on various safety systems, including blind spot detection, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic braking systems claims the FCC. 

The move to allow vehicles to operate on a broader spectrum will also help automakers reach lofty goals they set before. As Reuters states, approximately 20 automakers entered into a voluntary agreement with safety regulators in the automotive industry to make collision-avoiding braking systems standard on all vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2022. The adoption of the technology, as the outlet states, could help eliminate 1 million crashes a year. 

According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the agency gave automakers "the bandwidth needed" to allow "proven technologies that enable services like collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring, and lane change assistance," while also allowing for "new innovations." In other words, it's a great move for the automotive industry, especially when it comes to safety. 

The FCC, according to the report, claims that the move to the larger spectrum will see some automakers exit some of the smaller portions of the spectrum that previous radar systems use after 2022, reports Reuters

In addition to allowing automakers to perfect safety technology, the FCC's move helps the United States to follow the same spectrum as Europe, which, as the FCC claims, could help automakers bring new tech to the market sooner. 

Why Move To A New Spectrum Now?

The FCC's decision, as Reuters reports, was prompted by a petition filed by Robert Bosch GmbH, a German automotive supplier that's currently working with Baidu and Continental to develop autonomous tech, back in 2012. Continental AG, another leading German automotive manufacturing company that specializes in various components, claimed that the 5 GHz spectrum would allow for "better range separation, range accuracy, angular accuracy, and reliable object discrimination." 

While the agency is excited to see any changes that come from switching to the broader spectrum, FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly noted that automakers were granted another block of spectrum to use in 1999 for V2V communications, reports Reuters, but that has gone unused for the most part. 

With every automaker and tech company working towards an autonomous future, the new spectrum should come in handy, as self-driving cars are meant to drastically drop the number of accidents on the road.