Automakers take aim at Qualcomm over DSRC-related proposals

Ford Mustang
Ford is a member of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which, along with the Association of Global Automakers, disputes arguments about DSRC. Image: Ford

Let’s just say Qualcomm didn’t make too many friends among the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers when it responded to technical claims associated with the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) systems that car makers want to implement.

To be sure, the automakers applauded Qualcomm’s engagement in the FCC’s proceeding, going so far as to say such exchanges “promote our goal of building a consensus solution.” And with that goal in mind, they proceeded to put forth a set of “corrections, clarifications and expansions” of key points where disagreements remain. Ford Motor Company, BMW Group and General Motors are among the members of the Alliance, while the Global Automakers group includes Ferrari, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan and more.

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The automobile groups pointed out quite a few areas where they disagree, including the need for significant additional testing by the DSRC community in the event of rechannelization. “Given that Qualcomm appears to be technically unsure of the current operational DSRC characteristics, it is difficult to understand how they can make claims that re-channelization won’t require much testing,” the automobile groups said in their Nov. 17 filing (PDF) with the FCC.

“Qualcomm disputes our assertion that re-channelization will create a need for significant additional testing by the DSRC community,” the groups said. “As Qualcomm states, ‘[a]s a DSRC chipset provider, Qualcomm has explained that re-channelization can be implemented via software changes.’ Simply making a software change is one thing, but ensuring that the DSRC system works properly, especially in safety-of-life situations, is another. With due respect to the many areas in which Qualcomm possesses expertise, we do not consider testing of vehicle safety systems to be one of them.”

For its part, Qualcomm said in the Sept. 6 FCC filing (PDF)—with which the automakers took issue—that it “wholeheartedly agreed that DSRC can improve safety on our nation’s roadways and that it is crucially important to protect latency-sensitive safety-of-life communications from harmful interference. Enabling such DSRC operations while opening up a portion of the 5.9 GHz band to Wi-Fi is the essence of the rechannelization plan.”

Qualcomm argued that rechannenelization does not nullify the validity of the performance testing that has occurred under the current DSRC band plan. Qualcomm also addressed a claim by opponents who said detect-and-avoid (DAA) will open up a substantial amount of spectrum for Wi-Fi operations indoors, which Qualcomm disputed.

“Under the DAA proposal, widely-deployed DSRC roadside infrastructure and DSRC-equipped vehicles will prevent Wi-Fi from accessing in a meaningful manner the entire U-NII-4 band (and the upper portion of U-NII-3) inside vehicles, homes and businesses up to several hundred meters away from DSRC transmissions,” Qualcomm said.

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While automakers see great potential in DSRC, others see it as too little too late. Durga Malladi, senior vice president of Engineering at Qualcomm, recently told EE Times that “DSRC has done a great job in defining V2V specifications for messaging, forward collision warnings, emergency braking warning for slippery roads, etc. But … the development work of DSRC is already finished. There is no follow-on work. DSRC is a dead end.”

Of course, Qualcomm is also a big proponent of cellular-based V2X, which continues to improve as cellular technology progresses, he argued. But Qualcomm also stressed after EE Times originally posted its story that the company is pursuing a dual strategy that supports both DSRC and C-V2X.