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Intelligent transport under threat in the US

Future proof: Safer driving in the future will involve the deployment of a number of automated systems.

Life-saving intelligent transport technology fights for spectrum with WiFi

5 May 2014

THE intelligent transport systems industry in the United States faces a challenge from the Wi-Fi industry, which wants to buy the part of the radio spectrum that has been allocated to transportation.

This may explain why in February the US Department of Transport announced that the US would be the first country in the world to mandate the adoption of vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technology in new cars.

The estimates of the trauma and cost that can be avoided by the adoption of V2V technology are enormous, according to Scott Belcher, the chief executive of ITS America.

“Our Department of Transport estimates that this ITS (intelligent transport systems) technology can reduce crashes by 82 per cent,” he said.

“That’s bigger than seatbelts, bigger than electronic stability control, bigger than airbags. That’s huge, absolutely huge,” he told an ITS Australia Business and Networking event in Melbourne.

He said the US records 33,000 road crash fatalities every year.

“That’s a big number. Thirty-three thousand is ridiculous.”

Communications between vehicles and between vehicles and infrastructure (red lights, rail crossings, low bridges) are considered to be a large part of the ITS future, along with traffic management enabled by real time analysis of road conditions.

But Mr Belcher said the whole ITS enterprise in the US was being threatened by the competition for radio spectrum space.

“We have a very narrow window. The radio spectrum that we are building this on is called dedicated short range communication and is on 5.9Gh,” he said. “It’s Wi-Fi, a segment of the WiFi spectrum.

“When we had this set aside for ITS, nobody wanted it because it’s for short distances. It’s a big pipe. There was no use for it 10 years ago. Who’d think you’d need that?”“Well, now the Wi-Fi industry really wants it because you can zap movies, stream video, so we are at a real interesting time in the US as we try to protect this spectrum and this ITS program for the huge safety advances that can be achieved.”“It’s an interesting political fight in the US because of the economic impact the Wi-Fi industry can achieve right away, as opposed to when we could deploy.

This is really a challenge.”

He said the pressure was the result of the Wi-Fi industry being ready to use the spectrum now, whereas he said it takes the car manufacturers around 18 years to change over the whole of their product ranges.

“In the tech space we think of innovation in 18 month terms.

“The tension with connected vehicles is, can we roll this out in a time that allows us to take advantage of this technology, allows of us to take advantage of this spectrum?“If we don’t take advantage of it in the near term and really deploy it, shame on us.”

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