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Autonomous Vehicles

Proposed Spectrum Reallocation Could Stifle Global Competitiveness, According to Automotive Experts

Jericho Casper

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Photo of self driving car by Grendelkhan used with permission

June 10, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal of redistributing spectrum on the 5.9 GigaHertz (GHz) band drew criticism from auto industry experts on a Federal Communications Bar Associations webinar Tuesday. 

The agency proposed repurposing the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed operations to support broadband applications. 

If enacted, the new rule would take a second look at spectrum allocation on the 5.9 GHz band and propose appropriate changes to ensure the spectrum is employed to its best use. 

The 5.9 GHz band (5.850-5.925 GHz) has been reserved for use by dedicated short-range communications for the past two decades, which is a service of Intelligent Transportation Systems designed to enable vehicle-related communications. Unfortunately, DSRC technology has evolved slowly and has not been widely deployed. 

Under the newly proposed rule, the FCC would continue to dedicate spectrum in the upper 30 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band to meet current and future transportation and vehicle safety needs, while repurposing the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed operations, such as Wi-Fi.

Since the initial deployment of DSRC technology, C-V2X technology was created, allowing vehicles to communicate with each other, as well as infrastructure, bikers and pedestrians. 

According to Matthew Hardy, program director for planning and policy for AASHTO, C-V2X technology far surpasses the capabilities presented by DSRC. Hardy argued the technology is crucial because it can prevent life-threatening crashes from occurring.

Sean Conway, a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, contended that retaining all 75 MGHz is necessary for innovation, as 25 MGHz in the upper band would be utilized by 4G C-V2X, while another 50 MGHz in the lower band would be necessary to advance 5G C-V2X. 

Angel Preston, director of safety at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, argued that the actions proposed by the FCC could hinder global competitiveness, as the U.S. is decreasing C-V2X technology deployment while other countries are increasing construction. 

Preston cited that 13 Chinese automotive makers committed to utilizing C-V2X technology in their models in coming years.

Opposition to the automotive experts was raised by Danielle Pineres, vice president of the Internet & Television Association, who argued that no more than 40 MGHz should be reserved for automotive safety, alluding to the fact that the 5.9 GHz band has been relatively unutilized for more than 20 years.

FCC inaction on the matter continues to stifle the progression of both broadband deployment and the automobile industry.   

Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband.

Autonomous Vehicles

Broadband Roundup: Tesla Cars Ain’t Driverless, Suspicious Bernie Sanders Facebook Posts, ReConnect Awards

David Jelke

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Photo of NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt by the National Transportation Safety Board

According to a Forbes article by Alan Ohnsman, U.S. safety investigators are calling for greater regulation of Teslas following the release of several investigative reports detailing several Tesla crashes due to the cars faulty autopilot mode.

In March 2018 in Mountain View, California, Walter Huang was playing a game on his phone as his Tesla Model X barreled down the highway. His car’s autopilot mode failed to detect a traffic barrier and crashed head-on into the concrete, killing Huang and trapping two other cars in a vortex of metal.

Investigators of the National Transportation Safety Board, an independent government body, have found fault with the company’s ’partially automated” label  in light of the accidents. They have also proposed pro-active steps Tesla and the Transportation Department should take to save lives from faulty technology.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at the conclusion of a hearing on Tuesday in Washington: “We urge Tesla to work on improving its Autopilot technology and for NHTSA to fulfill its oversight responsibility to ensure that corrective action is taken when necessary. It’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars. Because they don’t have driverless cars.”

Facebook investigating suspicious posts linked to Bernie Sanders supporters

Facebook is investigating accounts linked to suspicious posts that support Bernie Sanders, according to an article on The Wall Street Journal by Emily Glazer and Dustin Voz.

This news comes after U.S. Intelligence has confirmed that Russian operatives are using information to try to get Bernie Sanders nominated by the Democratic primary.

Facebook has yet to substantiate these claims.

“We investigate each credible claim we receive, just as we did in this instance when an outside researcher contacted us,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the Journal. “To date, we have not been able to substantiate the researcher’s claims and we have not been notified by the intelligence community.”

USDA’s ReConnect grant program makes more awards

The Agriculture Department this week announced the awarding of $9.1 million, $3.3 million, and $2.2 million for broadband in rural communities in South Carolina, Montana, and Nevada, respectively.

The funds were dispersed via USDA’s ReConnect program attempting to shrink the digital divide between rural and non-rural communities.

“High-speed broadband e-Connectivity is critical to increasing access to health care and educational opportunities and strengthening economic development efforts in rural communities,” South Carolina Rural Development State Director Debbie Turbeville said.

“Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in deploying this critical infrastructure, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

The Reconnect program was passed in 2018. It allocated $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. Since last summer, the department has received applications requesting a total of $1.4 billion in funding.

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Autonomous Vehicles

Pro-Tech and Disability Advocates Criticize Time-Consuming Process for Autonomous Vehicle Safety at House Hearing

Adrienne Patton

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Photo of Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing by Adrienne Patton

WASHINGTON, February 12, 2020 – Technology advocates and disability activists on Tuesday used a hearing of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee to criticize the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s time-consuming process to alter the rules surrounding autonomous vehicles.

Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro and National Federation of the Blind President Mark Riccobono agreed. “Accessibility and innovation go hand in hand,” Riccobono said. Companies are encouraged to create and innovate if exemptions are available, Riccobono stated.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Cathy Chase said the NHTSA is in need of additional help as its budget continues to decrease. The regulation for automated vehicles doesn’t exist and “minimum performance standards” are imperative, said Chase.

Chase advocated for an increased focus on safety right away. In her written statement, Chase wrote, “the race to ‘build it first’ should never overshadow the need to ensure readiness for broad public use in real life scenarios.”

But Shapiro said exemptions are crucial for innovation because automated vehicles will save lives regardless, and performance and regulation will never be able to guarantee no deaths.

In 2018, more than 100 people died daily from car crashes, said John Bozzella, CEO of Alliance for Automotive Innovation. He asked congress to consider a “regulatory framework” that would help decrease fatalities through safe automated vehicles.

American Association of Justice State Affairs Counsel Daniel Hinkle said automated vehicle legislation should hold producers accountable for damages or injuries inflicted on AV customers. “The difference between an automated vehicle and a human driven vehicle is a promise—a promise from the manufacturer of the automated driving system that their system can perform the entire dynamic driving task without in-vehicle supervision,” Hinkle said.

Hinkle also asked that the public “not be forced into arbitration.” “The one-sided and secretive nature of forced arbitration is established at the onset wherein companies, rather than individuals, choose the private company which will administer the forced arbitration proceeding, the payment terms, and the rules,” stated Hinkle.

Riccobono boasted the unparalleled prospects automated vehicles would open to the blind community. “100 percent of accidents today are caused by sighted drivers,” said Riccobono to laughter.

Riccobono is pleased that accessibility has been included in the automated vehicle discussion because it is usually an afterthought, he said. He asked congress not to enforce regulatory restrictions that might exclude the blind from accessing automated vehicles.

Not only will automated vehicles provide feasible transportation for the blind community, but increase workforce participation, said Riccobono.

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Autonomous Vehicles

Automated Vehicles May Be Further Away Than They Appear

Masha Abarinova

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WASHINGTON, July 25, 2019 – There is still a long way to go before self-driving vehicles can be fully integrated into society, said engineering and policy experts gathered at the Brookings Institution for a day-long conference on Thursday.

In the opening keynote address, Kenneth Leonard, director of the Transportation Department’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, said that the Department of Transportation has worked to develop the promise of connected and automated vehicles to solve some of transportation’s biggest challenges.

There are about 40,000 fatalities on U.S. roads each year, he said. The U.S. close to significant changes in the vehicle industry. However, in the rush to utilize spectrum for transportation purposes, the potential vulnerability of information sharing among vehicles has been overlooked.

The Transportation Department will lead efforts to address potential safety risks, advance the lifesaving potential of automation and seek to strengthen public confidence in these emerging technologies, said Leonard.

Consumer safety and trust are crucial for Autonomous Vehicle acceptance, said Sanjay Ranka, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Florida. That is why data-driven approaches are key as well as the use of centralized computing to manage privacy and stability.

Regarding AV regulation, Former Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan said that safety is the number one priority. For that reason, the federal government needs to modernize vehicle safety standards to determine how to measure the value of safety in this era.

But government action is a hurdle as the current administration does not consider AV development inevitable, he said. Although the federal government has the authority to pull defective vehicles off the road, it has no “clear” role in insurance liability, forcing states to assign liability on their own terms.

To ensure safety, we need to know what specific metrics we want AV data to report, said Kan.

Part of that problem, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be a consensus definition of “safety” within the transportation industry, said Marjory Blumenthal, senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Both the public and private sectors don’t know how to efficiently test and measure safety.

The public sector knows even less information, she said, because autonomous developers do not disclose all the details of their research.

Given how competitive the automobile industry is, innovation resulting from that competition is vital, said Cliff Winston, senior fellow at Searle Freedom Trust.

Private sector competition is at the right level, but the problem is the policy stance, he said. Regulatory delays combined and constraints on technological innovations hurt automotive advances.

The public sector needs more input into this technology, said Blumenthal, because AVs are not yet consistent with their design and operation. Policymakers need to think about AV safety from a system perspective, where different factors make up the mechanics of the vehicle itself.

Winston agreed that the government needs to establish a testing framework for AVs on a national scale. In turn, developers will push for the infrastructure needed to smoothly operate the vehicles.

Policymakers should instead emphasize the cost of not having these types of vehicles, said Rick Geddes, founding director at Cornell University’s program in infrastructure policy. It would be a “huge advantage” if people started to think differently about how they pay for and use roads.

The “status-quo bias” towards traditional vehicles, said Winston, deters the government from authorizing manufacturing and fully autonomous driving.

The technology is not changing as fast as people like to think, said Blumenthal. Projections for AV deployment are further than anticipated due to setbacks from accidents. She said that these accidents provide a poor outlook on the industry as a whole.

(Photo of Brookings Institution event by Masha Abarinova.)

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