House committee leaders request study on safety of opening up 5.9Ghz Spectrum Band

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U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Sam Graves (R-MO) have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into what safety implications arise out of opening up the 5.9 gigahertz spectrum.

The two leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure asked that the GAO conduct a study into the matter in a letter to the GAO’s Comptroller General Gene Dodaro on Oct. 30.

Committee Chair DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves said that they were concerned that opening the 5.9Ghz spectrum could negatively impact the future of advanced transportation technologies. In December 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed allocated more than half of the Safety Band to unlicensed operations, like Wi-Fi, against the guidance of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

“Advanced technologies hold tremendous potential to improve transportation safety, reduce congestion, and decrease pollution, among other prospective uses. Some of these technologies rely on wireless communication between vehicles, between vehicles and infrastructure (such as traffic signals), or vehicles, and other users (such as pedestrians),” DeFazio and Graves wrote in their letter. “Transportation stakeholders have concerns that an insufficient amount of available spectrum, such as the amount proposed in the FCC’s proceeding, may significantly affect the efficacy of current and future applications of vehicle safety technologies.”

The Congressmen asked the GAO to look into the current status of 5.9Ghz wireless transportation technologies, what industry and other stakeholders see is the potential uses of the technologies, what effect sharing the technology would have on efficacy and safety of the current wireless transportation technology deployments, and what options exist for automakers and highway management agencies to ensure the safe deployment of connected vehicle technologies in a shared spectrum band scenario.