"This is the ultimate abandonment of public safety by the FCC," said Shailen Bhatt, CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that works to advance R&D of technologies that improve road safety and sustainable transportation.
"Every voice in transportation has said this is the wrong thing to do," he said. "I can't believe the FCC is willfully disregarding the experts on safety. It's just stunning."
Organizations from the National Sheriffs' Association to the League of American Bicyclists have voiced opposition to the proposal, which industry experts expect will pass. Even U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said altering the spectrum would put safety efforts "in peril" and said the proposal "is not grounded in data or sound science" in comments submitted to the FCC.
At the heart of the proposal is a yearslong dispute over two methods for sending the potential safety messages.
Starting with the bandwith allocation in 1999, researchers began transmitting them via Dedicated Short Range Communications, or DSRC, on the 5.9-gigahertz spectrum. The FCC plan would end these types of transmissions and reduce the industry's overall spectrum allocation by 45 megahertz. Alternately, it would reserve a 30-MHz portion of the spectrum for a newer way of transmitting safety messages using cellular technology, a method car companies such as Ford Motor Co. and Audi have tested in pilot projects in recent years. Audi is using it to test effectiveness in addressing crashes in construction and school zones.