Report: DSRC mandate moving off the table for automakers

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The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a proposed rule last year to advance the deployment of connected vehicle technologies. (U.S. DOT)

Wireless and tech industry executives generally reacted positively to reports that the Trump administration plans on shelving an Obama-era plan that would have mandated dedicated short range communications (DSRC) for vehicles.

According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration quietly set aside plans to require new cars to wirelessly talk to each other using DSRC. If that happens, it would open up the technology decision to cellular-based and 5G technologies. Granted, a mandate presumably would speed things along and make sure all car makers are using the same technology, but industry stakeholders have argued that the government shouldn’t be making the technology decisions.

The AP report cited two auto industry officials who spoke with White House and Transportation Department officials and two others whose organizations have spoken to the administration. The White House declined to comment to the AP, which noted that the proposal has been dropped from the White House Office of Management and Budget’s list of regulations actively under consideration and has been relegated to its long-term agenda.  

RELATED: Regulators move forward on DSRC proposal for V2V

FCC commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel, who have made a point to take a bipartisan stance on the issue, each sent tweets saying it’s time for the FCC to look at unlicensed again in the 5.9 GHz band. In 2015, the two of them penned a blog that called for taking another look at the spectrum designated for DSRC and developing a compromise that would allow both unlicensed and DSRC use in the U-NII-4 band.


Michael Calabrese, director, Wireless Future Program at New America, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., said the Obama "talking car mandate" would have been doubly bad for consumers.

“The mandate would have forced new car buyers to spend $100 billion on equipment that NHTSA acknowledges will not be effective for 15 years, since its reliability depends on nearly all vehicles being equipped. A mandate could also deny consumers faster and better Wi-Fi, since it would occupy valuable airwaves needed to make wireless broadband more fast and affordable. In addition, independent researchers have documented serious privacy and security vulnerabilities in the proposed technology,” he said.

“DSRC is just too little, too late. Many years before it could show up in most vehicles, lasers, cameras and other driver assist technologies, combined with 5G cellular car connectivity, will be able to do everything DSRC promises to do, while also making each individual new car safer from day one.”

Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, said he’s glad to see the Department of Transportation back away from a plan which, as Public Knowledge repeatedly demonstrated, would actually make American drivers less safe.

“That said, this is hardly surprising—especially in the wake of last fall’s report describing how the proposed DSRC mandate dramatically enhanced the vulnerability of cars to cyberattacks and ransomware,” Feld said in a statement.

“Hopefully, this will push companies like GM to abandon this 20-year-old technology and follow in the path of companies such as Tesla, which have adopted more modern and more secure vehicle-2-vehicle technologies,” Feld said. “Doing so would also free up valuable spectrum that could then be repurposed for 5G/next-generation Wi-Fi.”

Qualcomm has been playing both in the DSRC and cellular-based V2V spaces, and yesterday it noted how Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything communications, or C-V2X, continues to gain ecosystem support. AT&T, Ford, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies earlier this week announced the first U.S. C-V2X trials in San Diego.

“Qualcomm believes that vehicle-to-vehicle direct communications is key for road safety and the future of autonomous driving. Support from regulators is essential in preserving ITS spectrum for V2V globally and facilitate the development of an end-to-end ecosystem where vehicles can not only connect to each other but also to infrastructure in support of improved road safety,” a Qualcomm spokesperson said in a statement provided to FierceWirelessTech today.

The FCC has been working on spectrum-sharing tests in the 5.9 GHz band, and the AP said the first results are expected to be released soon.