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In oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court on January 25, lawyers for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Intelligent Transportation Society of America reiterated the need to preserve the entire 5.9 GHz wireless spectrum band for transportation communication needs – largely to help reduce vehicle crashes and improve safety on U.S. roads.

[Above photo by the D.C. Circuit Court]

The arguments result from an appeal filed by the two organizations in June 2021 regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s order issued in November 2020 opening up the 5.9 GHz band to “unlicensed devices.”

Graphic by USDOT

The lawsuit brought by AASHTO and ITS America seeks to reverse the FCC’s reallocation of 60 percent of the band to unlicensed, non-transportation uses and ensure vehicle-to-everything or V2X technologies can continue safely operating throughout the 5.9 GHz band.

Access to the entire 75 MHz of spectrum is necessary to deploy the full suite of connected vehicle technologies and fully realize the safety benefits of V2X, the two groups said.

[Editor’s note: The National Transportation Safety Board recently issued a four-part video series detailing the potential safety benefits of V2X technology, including interviews with state DOT representatives.]

“AASHTO and a broad cross-section of transportation safety experts and stakeholders have steadfastly objected to retaining anything less than the current 75 MHz of bandwidth for transportation,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, in a statement.

Jim Tymon

“State departments of transportation are heavily vested in the development and deployment of connected and automated vehicles that have tremendous potential in significantly improving safety, mobility, and accessibility for all people,” he added.

“The loss of life is devastating, particularly given recent trends – roadway fatalities increased 8 percent in 2020 over 2019 and by another 18 percent in the first half of 2021,” noted Laura Chace, president and CEO of ITS America. “Connected vehicle technology is our best tool to make roads safer and save lives, and we can’t leave it on the sidelines.”

Laura Chace

Chace and Tymon noted the FCC did not heed the extensive concerns of dozens of transportation stakeholder organizations and safety experts, including the U.S. Department of Transportation and every state DOT before it issued the final order.

Several organizations voiced their support of the legal case. The American Highway Users Alliance, American Traffic Safety Services Association, Institute of Transportation Engineers, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the National Safety Council filed an ‘Amicus Brief’ in support of AASHTO and ITS America’s position, focusing on the need for the myriad safety benefits V2X technology offers.

In addition, vehicle component maker Continental filed an ‘Intervenor Brief,’ which focused on ways in which reduced spectrum allocation will make it impossible to realize all the benefits V2X could provide.

editor@aashto.org

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