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Toyota Halts Plans to Include Short-Range Communications Tech in Vehicles for the U.S. Market

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【Summary】Toyota Motor Corp is abandoning plans to install Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) Technology in its vehicles. The technology enables vehicles to communicate with other nearby vehicles, infrastructure, traffic signals and other smart city infrastructure.

Eric Walz    Apr 27, 2019 6:00 AM PT
Toyota Halts Plans to Include Short-Range Communications Tech in Vehicles for the U.S. Market

Toyota Motor Corp is abandoning plans to install Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) Technology in its vehicles. The technology enables vehicles to communicate with other nearby vehicles, infrastructure, traffic signals and other smart city infrastructure.

The short-range communications technology was once viewed as a promising for the automotive industry but automakers have been slow to adopt it.

Toyota said on Friday it was halting plans to install DSRC technology and will focus instead on 5G communications. Toyota became the world's first automaker to sell and commercialize vehicles equipped with DSRC back in 2015.

However, automakers have been divided over whether to proceed with the DSRC system or use a 4G- or 5G-based system in the United States.

On Friday, Toyota said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that "unfortunately we have not seen significant production commitments from other automakers."

DSRC Does not Require a Cellular Network

DSRC communication enables vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications – collectively known as vehicle-to-everything or V2X. The technology has been thoroughly tested through industry collaborations and is already deployed in some areas of the U.S.

DSRC communications use 7 channels of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band allocated by the FCC for Intelligent Transportation Systems. Automakers were allocated the bandwidth in 1999, but it has essentially gone unused. The technology does not require a cellular or data network, vehicles equipped with DSRC do not incur any cellular network carrier charges.

The Japanese automaker first announced plans in April 2018 to begin the installation of DSRC technology in 2021 "with the goal of adoption across most of its lineup by the mid-2020s."

According to Reuters, some FCC and cable company officials want to reallocate the spectrum for WiFi and other uses. Testing has gone on for years to see if the band can be shared.

DSRC supporters note the U.S. Transportation Department has invested over $700 million in the system's development. The option has issues, including problems with interoperability between manufacturers, and the technology not being mature enough to deploy in the 5.9 GHz band, they say.

Toyota said on Friday its decision was based on "a range of factors, including the need for greater automotive industry commitment as well as federal government support to preserve the 5.9 GHz spectrum band for DSRC."

The chance that the band could be subjected to "harmful interference from unlicensed operations... creates a substantial and arguably insurmountable risk," Toyota added.

However the automaker said that it would "continue to re-evaluate the deployment environment" and said it is still a strong backer of DSRC "because we believe it is the only proven and available technology for collision avoidance communication."

Toyota's announcement means it is "imperative that the FCC provide clear guidance and certainty to the private sector companies and road operators that are trying to create a safer environment," said the Intelligent Transportation Society of American, a group representing public, private and academic organizations.

DSRC transmissions enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and broadcast precise vehicle information up to 10 times per second, including location, speed and acceleration without using a cellular network.

DSRC Could Reduce Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has estimated that connected vehicles technologies could eliminate or reduce the severity of up to 80% of crashes not involving impaired drivers.

Last year, the acting head of the NHTSA Heidi King, said the agency's "past research has centered around DSRC — because that was the only technology available."

The NHTSA was "exploring other technologies" including cellular-based services being pursued by Ford Motor Co, she said.

Ford said in January it planned to deploy cellular vehicle-to-everything technology,  or C-V2X , in all new U.S. vehicle models beginning in 2022.

U.S. automaker General Motors backs DSRC and has installed the technology on a limited number of Cadillac CTS sedans it has sold since 2017.

In December 2016, the Department of Transportation proposed to mandate DSRC in all new vehicles, however Trump administration has not acted on the proposal.

The Transportation Department plans a meet with automakers and state transportation officials on Monday to discuss connected vehicle efforts, officials said on Friday.

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