Transportation Department Reaffirms Commitment to 5.9 GHz Band

The Transportation Department today released new guidance for automated vehicles that, among other things, reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that transportation safety applications can use the 5.9 gigahertz band.

The new guidance, “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0” “builds upon — but does not replace — voluntary guidance” known as “Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety” that was released last year (TR Daily, Sept. 12, 2017), DoT said. Last year’s AV guidance was the first for the Trump administration and followed guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2016 (TR Daily, Sept. 20, 2016).

In AV 3.0, the Transportation Department reaffirmed that “the Department is continuing its work to preserve the ability for transportation safety applications to function in the 5.9 GHz spectrum.”

“Throughout the Nation there are over 70 active deployments of V2X communications utilizing the 5.9 GHz band,” DoT said. “U.S. DOT currently estimates that by the end of 2018, over 18,000 vehicles will be deployed with aftermarket V2X communications devices and over 1,000 infrastructure V2X devices will be installed at the roadside. Furthermore, all seven channels in the 5.9 GHz band are actively utilized in these deployments. In addition to the Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC)-based deployments, private sector companies are already researching and testing Cellular-V2X technology that would also utilize the 5.9 GHz spectrum.”

DoT said that it “is continuing its work to preserve the ability for transportation safety applications to function in the 5.9 GHz spectrum while exploring methods for sharing the spectrum with other users in a manner that maintains priority use for vehicle safety communications. A three-phase test plan was collaboratively developed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the FCC has completed the first phase. Phases 2 and 3 of the spectrum sharing test plan will explore potential sharing solutions under these more real-world conditions.”

The FCC has not yet released the results of the Phase 1 testing, which was done in the FCC’s lab, on sharing of the 5.9 GHz band between DSRC and Wi-Fi operations. The next two phases of testing are expected to be done in the field.

During a call with reporters today on AV 3.0, a DoT official did not respond to a question about when the results of the Phase 1 testing might be released and when the additional testing would occur. “We support the full use of the spectrum for transportation safety,” the official said.

Finch Fulton, deputy assistant DoT secretary-transportation policy, told reporters that the new guidance “is part of the department’s Iterative flexible approach towards ensuring the safe integration of automated technologies into our surface transportation system.”

He and other officials stressed that the guidance was drafted after the department received significant input from stakeholders, adding that they want additional input.

DoT said that “AV 3.0 includes six principles that guide U.S. DOT programs and policies on automation and five implementation strategies for how the Department translates these principles into action ….”

Like last year’s guidance, AV 3.0 stresses the importance of voluntary guidance rather than mandates. “Automation technologies are new and rapidly evolving,” DoT said. “The right approach to achieving safety improvements begins with a focus on removing unnecessary barriers and issuing voluntary guidance, rather than regulations that could stifle innovation.”

At an event this morning, Nat Beuse, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s associate administrator-vehicle safety research, said AV 3.0 reiterates the voluntary guidance on self-assessments produced by automakers, four of which have been completed. Companies decide whether to release them publicly.

Mr. Beuse said DoT also will continue to look for ways to reduce regulations, including considering changes to the exemptions process.

AV 3.0 received mixed views today.

“With the new AV 3.0 guidelines, [Transportation Secretary] Elaine L. Chao has focused on road and driver safety while leaving room for industry innovation,” said Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Technology Association. “This approach will solidify our nation’s global leadership in self-driving technologies at a time when other countries are trying to duplicate the United States’ success. The promise of self-driving technology should encourage all levels of government to collaborate with industry and stakeholders to educate the public about the benefits the technology offers, save lives on our roads and ease traffic congestion.”

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President and CEO Mitch Bainwol said, “Secretary Chao and the Department of Transportation should be commended for again spurring the development of innovative safety technologies, including self-driving vehicle technologies that hold great promise for our nation. The updated AV Policy Guidance (3.0) builds on previous guidance Secretary Chao released last September – which has provided greater clarity to auto manufacturers and technology providers working to develop cutting-edge technologies that can enhance roadway safety, expand mobility, and ensure that the U.S. continues to lead the development, testing, and deployment of life saving technologies.”

“We applaud DOT’s continued commitment to getting safe and innovative self-driving cars on America’s roadways, and share in the urgency for a unified safety framework across state lines,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.) and digital commerce and consumer protection subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R., Ohio). “The U.S. is at a critical point in the development of this life-saving technology, and if we can’t get policy on the books, we stand to lose jobs, investment, and innovation to other countries. Today’s updated federal guidance demonstrates America is ready to lead the world in the development of self-driving cars, and we look forward to working with DOT and our Senate colleagues to ensure the momentum continues.”

Russ Martin, director-policy and government relations for the Governors Highway Safety Association, said it “congratulates the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) on its automated vehicles policy guidance 3.0 and its ongoing effort to promote a national policy framework for these new safety technologies. GHSA also thanks U.S. DOT for gathering input and keeping the safety community apprised as it developed this new guidance.”

But Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, called AV 3.0 “weak, voluntary guidelines allowing manufacturers of autonomous vehicles (AVs) to use our Nation’s roads and highways as proving grounds for unproven technology.  Instead of being called ‘3.0’ guidelines, they should be considered ‘-1.0’ guidelines because they throw our Nation’s AV policy in reverse.  AV manufacturers will continue to introduce extremely complex, supercomputers-on-wheels into the driving environment with meager government oversight and accountability.”

The National Safety Council said in a statement, “While there are several important additions to the guidance released last year, the Council is concerned that safety assessments continue to be voluntary, and is disappointed about the lack of focus on public awareness and education. While dozens of companies are testing vehicles on our roadways, only four have submitted voluntary assessments. Before putting vehicles on the highway, manufacturers should ensure their technology is ready for prime time and provide increased transparency through publishing safety assessments and commit to data and information sharing.” —Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily