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EC Hits the Brakes on V2V

by Roger Lanctot | 7月 04, 2019

In the midst of a turbulent post-election session the European Commission voted today to reject proposed technical legislation seeking to set Wi-Fi-based communications standards for inter-vehicle communications. A total of 21 countries voted against the text, according to published reports, with Finland - chairing its first meeting of EU ambassadors - casting the deciding vote.

Without the vote, the so-called Delegated Act would have served as a de facto mandate requiring Wi-Fi-based devices to be used to communicate with intelligent transportation systems (ITS) across the E.U.

Provided that the Council of Ministers confirms the decision during its meeting July 8-9, which in principle should be a rubber stamp, it seems the Delegated Act will be sent back to the commission for rewriting. Transport Commissioner and human fly-in-the-ointment (ants at the picnic) Violeta Bulc "said she would work with the Council on a way forward, adding that the rules were needed now to deploy road safety applications," according to one report.

The legislation pits the telecommunications sector (DG-CONECT) against the transport sector (DG-MOVE) with telecommunications companies and industry lobbyists promoting the use of cellular technology (i.e. C-V2X and 5G) for inter-vehicle communications while transport executives (representing truck makers and ITS companies) pushing the Wi-Fi-based option. Both technologies use the same frequencies albeit with unique protocols.

Three car companies - Volkswagen, Toyota and Renault - are on record as supporting the Wi-Fi-based approach with most other car makers preferring cellular-based solutions or not expressing a preference. The European Union has been the last great hope for the adoption of Wi-Fi-based vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology which has been eschewed in favor of 5G in China and, so far, rejected in the U.S.

U.S. regulators came close to mandating dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology for V2V applications in the U.S. at the end of the Obama Administration. But the relevant agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), lacks a permanent leader and the Trump Administration has been hostile to all forms of regulatory activism.

Research conducted by NHTSA in the U.S. showed that a full deployment of DSRC-based V2V technology in the U.S. would cost as much as $200B. Local transportation executives in both the U.S. and the E.U. have long-expressed concern regarding the lack of funding for a DSRC-based system supporting inter-vehicle communications - which would required the installation of roadside devices and backhaul network connectivity.

In spite of this morning's decision by the European Commission, Commissioner Bulc appears to have maintained her determination to push through a V2V mandate of some kind. With some luck a revised technology-neutral document will emerge from the rewrite providing for vehicle makers to choose either a Wi-Fi-based or telecom-based solution. It's nice to know that rational decisions can yet emerge amid the turmoil of European political stalemate.

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