US: Senators introduce WiFi Innovation Act and carmakers don’t like it

US legislation

Despite worries from the automotive industry about interference with emerging V2X services, US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have introduced S. 2505, the Wi-Fi Innovation Act, legislation to expand unlicensed spectrum use by requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test the feasibility of opening the upper 5 GHz band to unlicensed use.

At a time when demand for spectrum is drastically increasing, the legislation aims to provide more of this valuable resource to the public to bolster innovation, spur economic development, and increase connectivity.

“To meet the demands of our time, action must be taken to ensure spectrum is utilized effectively and efficiently,” said Rubio. “This bill requires the FCC to conduct testing that would provide more spectrum to the public and ultimately put the resource to better use, while recognizing the future needs and important work being done in intelligent transportation. I am pleased that Senator Booker has joined me in this effort to foster the innovation and economic growth needed to make this century another American century.”

The Wi-Fi Innovation Act:

  • Directs the FCC to move swiftly in seeking comments and conducting testing to assess the feasibility of opening the 5850-5925 band to unlicensed use.
  • Recognizes the need to balance the importance of developing Intelligent Transportation and incumbent licensees in the 5 GHz band, while also maximizing the use of the band for shared purposes.

Association of Global Automakers

The US Association of Global Automakers (Global Automakers) representing Toyota, Nissan and Honda and other non-US manufacturers is concerned that legislation introduced today by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to open the 5.9GHz band to unlicensed users is putting at risk the opportunity to save thousands of lives through the deployment of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. The legislation seeks to rush a decision on opening and rechannelization of the spectrum dedicated to this revolutionary automotive technology.

“The lifesaving benefits of V2V communications are within reach,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers. “Given what’s at stake, an ill-informed decision on this spectrum is a gamble.”

To improve highway safety, the Federal Communications Commission allocated use of the 5.9 GHz spectrum to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Intelligent Transportation Systems” (ITS). This spectrum is essential for V2V communications, a technology that signals the driver before a crash in order to reduce its impact or avoid it completely.

“We appreciate the Senators’ willingness to work with us to address our concerns with the bill,” said Bozzella. “It is critical that we continue to collaborate on ways to engineer, examine, and evaluate proposed spectrum sharing strategies to ensure that harmful, potentially life-threatening, interference does not occur.”

DOT is working with automakers and other stakeholders to develop and field test V2V technology that is now quickly moving toward deployment. Today, thousands of vehicles equipped with V2V communications capabilities are being tested on public roads. DOT has stated that its deployment could potentially address 80 percent of vehicle crashes involving non-impaired drivers. This estimates to almost 4.5 million crashes a year – or roughly 12,000 crashes a day – that could be avoided.

ITS America

Scott F. Belcher, President and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) released the following statement in response to the legislation introduced by Rubio and Booker that would set deadlines on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for developing and publishing a test plan for the use of unlicensed devices in the 5.9 GHz band:

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the United States, with an annual death toll of 33,000 and over 2.3 million people injured on our nation’s roadways. That means by the end of today, 90 daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, friends and loved ones who we said goodbye to this morning won’t be coming home tonight. This has been a tragic reality for far too long.

Thanks to the strong commitment by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and automotive visionaries, and years of investment by innovators and American taxpayers, ‘talking cars’ that avoid crashes are well on the way to becoming a reality. The U.S. DOT announced in February that it will begin a rulemaking process to deploy vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology in new cars and light trucks utilizing the 5.9 GHz band of spectrum set aside by the FCC for V2V communication.

Earlier this week in testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, U.S. DOT Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Gregory D. Winfree said, “We have very serious concerns about any spectrum sharing that prevents or delays access to the desired channel, or otherwise preempts the safety applications. At this time, the Department is unaware of any existing or proposed technical solution which guarantees interference free operation of the DSRC safety critical applications while allowing Wi-Fi enabled devices to share the 5.9 GHz spectrum.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that V2V communication could prevent or reduce the impact of 4 out of 5 unimpaired vehicle crashes, saving thousands of lives each year and dramatically reducing the $871 billion annual cost of crashes to the nation’s economy. This connected vehicle safety technology truly represents the next giant leap in saving lives on America’s roadways by preventing crashes before they happen.

ITS America supports the collaborative effort, which is already underway, to explore whether a technical solution exists that would allow Wi-Fi devices to operate in the 5.9 GHz band without interfering with these critical safety applications. But this process should be allowed to proceed without arbitrary deadlines, restrictive parameters or political pressure that could influence the outcome.

We look forward to continuing to work with Senators Rubio and Booker, as well as the FCC and key stakeholders, to explore whether a technical solution can be developed and tested that will allow for spectrum sharing in the 5.9 GHz band without compromising safety.

SBD Comment ~ The US legislation and politics surrounding the plans to liberalise the 5.9 GHz band for non-automotive uses are analysed in SBD’s quarterly Safe Car Government Guide. For more information contact

Source: Marco Rubio, ITS America