May/June 2021 | Vol. 26 No. 3
by Stacy Tatman, Senior Manager, Government Relations and Legal Analysis, NEMA
Imagine a future where your vehicle could warn you about a slippery road or a pedestrian stepping into the street. Where your car helps you avoid collisions and congestion. Where your car pays your tolls and your parking. Well, the future is near!
To provide these valuable services and others, vehicles must be connected to the moving and stationary parts of the traffic system around them through intelligent transportation systems (ITS). NEMA Members manufacture a variety of ITS equipment and infrastructure, including traffic controllers, signal displays, conflict monitors, dynamic message signs, communications interfaces, software, and firmware modules.
The technology that allows vehicles to communicate with other vehicles, infrastructure, and even pedestrians is known as “vehicle-to-everything” or “V2X” technology. V2X communications systems are used to reduce fatalities, congestion, and environmental impact by conveying important information about inclement weather, nearby accidents, and road conditions, as well as adjusting traffic signals to give emergency vehicles priority in heavy traffic.
V2X communication systems use a short-range wireless signal for transferring information to compatible systems. This signal relies on a specific 75 MHz band of wavelengths in the wireless spectrum at 5.9 GHz known as the “safety band” or the “safety spectrum.” The safety spectrum has traditionally been reserved for transportation- related communications among the devices that support connected and automated vehicles.
In a November 2020 decision, however, the U.S. Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) reallocated 45 MHz of this spectrum for use by
unlicensed devices, thereby cutting the safety spectrum in half. By
giving away 45 MHz for Wi-Fi use, only 30 MHz remains for all V2X needs.
The numerous V2X applications that rely on the safety spectrum are
unlikely to fit in the remaining bandwidths. Affected parties had hoped
the FCC would not take this action as the Commission recently made the 6
GHz band available for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses, providing
extensive additional bandwidth.
This decision has created opposition among industry and government agencies alike. On behalf of its Members, NEMA raised concerns in comments on March 9 and April 26 where we provided information about the extensive research, development, and testing already undertaken in preparation for deployment in this specific band. NEMA also signed on to three V2X Coalition letters in 2020.
While NEMA will continue engaging with its V2X coalition partners to urge the FCC to listen to the safety experts and rethink its decision to reallocate this important safety spectrum, a bigger question for the industry is how to move forward with deployments given the new spectrum allocations.
That is where the new Standard NEMA TS 10 Connected Vehicle Infrastructure RoadsideEquipment, is relevant. That Standard provides solutions to practical applications such as emergency vehicle signal preemption, pedestrian crossing ahead, and entering school or work zones. These applications will realize the promise of connected vehicles, reducing crashes, and improving traffic. ei