EU ambassadors reject ‘Wifi-only’ move for autonomous cars

04 July 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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A meeting of EU permanent representatives has overwhelmingly thrown out a move to mandate Wifi for automated vehicles – leaving the way forward for 4G, 5G and other advanced technologies.

According to Capacity’s sources of information, a total of 21 representatives this morning rejected the Wifi-only move after pressure from the mobile telecoms and automotive industries.

The debate now goes to the Council of the European Union (EU), which meets on Monday to confirm or reject this morning’s discussion.

The decision today was taken by the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), a committee of ambassadors to the 28-nation Union.

Monday’s meeting, to take the final decision, will be formed of government ministers – rather than ambassadors – from each EU country.

This is a clear turnaround from the earlier position adopted for the EU’s planned rules on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS), which were pro-Wifi and which ignored newer technologies, including cellular mobile systems such as 4G and the emerging 5G mobile systems.

Four significant industry bodies, including the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) and the GSMA, representing around 750 mobile companies, had campaigned against the Wifi-only move.

GSMA director general Mats Granryd said: “Europe just got back in the connected car race against the US and China. Thousands of lives on the roads and thousands of jobs in our factories will be saved with this cutting edge technology. Europeans will also save billions of euros in a more seamless single market.”

He added: “The GSMA applauds the decision of EU member states to reject draft connected cars legislation.” The original plan “would have locked in an ageing radio technology to connect cars and infrastructure with each other, thereby making it more difficult for advanced cellular technologies such as C-V2X to enter Europe’s market.”

Joe Barrett, president of the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), said the intelligent transport ecosystem “should neither be limited by technology nor place Europe and mobile and automotive companies at a clear disadvantage to other regions of the world”.

He welcomed the decision. It “is great news for technology neutrality and signals a positive future for connected intelligent transport systems in Europe”, he added.

France, Italy and the Netherlands led the campaign for a technology-neutral approach, with Germany following only days ago. Today’s vote needed 21 supporters – three quarters of the membership – to succeed.

If ministers agree on Monday, cellular technologies will be allowed for what is increasingly being called V2X – vehicle to anything – services.

Manufacturers such as Ford have backed C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-anything) technology. One source told Capacity this week that Ford took its stance “because it understands that intelligent transport is about more than connected cars – it’s also about pedestrians, cyclists and all manner of vehicles, for which a WiFi-based solution is not practicable”.