The Driverless Commute: New FCC spectrum proposal would fuel the development of driverless vehicles

Unlocking the full potential of autonomous transportation will require smart, forward-looking decisions about how to manage the spectrum on which driverless vehicles will rely. A recent announcement from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai shows the United States is preparing for a fully autonomous future. After months of debate, the FCC revealed next steps for re-allocating the 5.9 GHz band for both unlicensed uses and transportation-specific applications with an eye to autonomous fleet deployment.

In an effort to provide predictability for automakers and broadband providers, Chairman Pai announced that the FCC will vote this month on his proposal to initiate a process that would open up the 5.9 GHz spectrum band for new uses. By way of background, the agency first set aside spectrum in what is called the 5.9 GHz band to support transportation uses in 1999.

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Talking cars: The FCC holds the key to unlocking the promise of autonomous vehicles

The dream fueling the development of driverless systems is a world where people and goods are transported quickly and efficiently, and without the accidents, pollution or visual clutter that are inevitable when humans control each vehicle individually. In this imagined new world, each vehicle would be optimized for its intended use, allowing us to reclaim all of the time and money we currently waste sitting in traffic or waiting for goods to arrive. In fact, the technologies needed to support autonomous vehicles are improving so quickly that this dream could soon become a reality, which has awakened regulators and lawmakers to the pressing need to confront the issue of digital roadway management.

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