GM underscores need for Short Range Radar in 76-81 GHz band for self-driving vehicles

General Motors is urging the FCC to permit GM’s planned Short Range Radar (SRR) use within the 76-81 GHz band, something current FCC rules don’t allow.

GM representatives met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his staff last week to discuss the matter, explaining that allowing SRR in the 76-81 GHz band would provide regulatory certainty necessary for automakers to leverage SRR’s safety applications, including for self-driving vehicles.

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GM’s vendor, Alps Electric North America, applied for a Special Temporary Authority (STA) in mid-March to deploy SRR in the 76-81 GHz for testing purposes; it's currently pending with the FCC. GM representatives emphasized to the FCC the importance of allowing continued work with SRRs on safety-related projects, according to an April 10 ex parte filing.  

In its STA application materials, Alps explains that it wants to test millimeter wave equipment on 300 vehicles, with each vehicle having 10 units on them for a total of 3,000. In addition to laboratory testing, the units will be mounted on passenger vehicle chassis. The plan is to conduct the experiment in private test facilities, roads, vehicle access ways and parking facilities in metropolitan areas.

“As this type of automotive product (with the frequency described) does not yet exist in the market for public consumption, there are a lot of experimentation and testing that needs to be done on our side and with our customer to continue development and make sure all necessary requirements are achieved prior to being able to complete a finished product,” Alps explained. "Without the STA, we will not be able to proceed further.”

RELATED: GM: ‘Prescriptive’ DSRC rules could hinder cybersecurity

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers previously has told the commission that permitting vehicular radar in the 76-81 GHz band will enable manufacturers to further develop and deploy SRR for safety applications such as autonomous braking, collision warning, lane departure warning and blind spot detection. The alliance says the 76-81 GHz band enables more effective SRR signals by allowing for a higher concentration of transmitters with limited range, and vehicular radar will not interfere with existing services operating in the 76-81 GHz band.

RELATED: GM explains why it needs more time to test DSRC

Last month, GM executives gave the FCC an update on the company's latest efforts to deploy Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications. GM, like a lot of carmakers, says it needs more time to ensure the safety of the technology—and they don’t want anybody (Wi-Fi, mainly) barging in on their spectrum.

During that March 17 meeting, John Capp, director of Global Safety Strategy & Vehicle Programs, explained to the FCC chairman and his staff that while GM is leading the industry with the deployment of the DSRC-equipped 2017 Cadillac CTS, “this technology is no different than others in the fact that in order to further develop the safety benefits more testing must be done,” according to an ex parte filing.

A wider debate in the industry revolves around the use of DSRC, a technology originally designed in the 1990s, versus the use of cellular-based technology for V2V and other types of applications.