February 13, 2013 By Ryan Holeywell
State transportation officials and other stakeholders are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to slow down on a plan that would improve Wi-Fi but could threaten much-anticipated technology that can help drivers avoid crashes.
The issue revolves around part of the broadcast spectrum -- the 5.9 GHz band, to be exact -- that the transportation community is using to develop so-called connected vehicles technology, which allows automobiles on the road to wirelessly communicate their position to one another so they can warn drivers of potential collisions. The federal government created a pilot program to study the technology last summer.
Hypothetically, if you’re driving and there’s someone cruising in your blind spot, that vehicle would send a signal to your own car that conveys its position. Inside your car, a radio would receive that signal and then prompt a flashing light or sound to warn you not to change lanes. Experts say the technology could help drivers prevent many types of accidents, including rear-end collisions and T-bone crashes.
The technology has been hailed as a way to save thousands of lives every year. But now, many in the transportation community say the more than decade of work that's gone into developing connected vehicles technology could be in jeopardy.
Last month, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced plans to increase Wi-Fi speeds in the hopes that it will alleviate congestion at Internet hotspots like airports by "unleashing" space in the broadcast spectrum for more Wi-Fi use.