EU lawmakers have rejected a Commission push for ITS-G5 WiFi technology to be installed in vehicles, backing those who prefer the 5G C-V2X standard instead.
The EU executive committee is seeking to set benchmarks for internet-connected cars, a market for vehicle manufacturers, telecoms operators and equipment suppliers that could be worth billions of euros a year.
The European Commission favours the WiFi-based ITS-G5, which would give carmakers Volkswagen (VW) and Renault an advantage over Daimler, Ford and PSA Group, who all back the rival 5G standard C-V2X.
However, the telecoms industry has raised its concerns over a clause that requires new technologies, such as 5G, to be compatible with older technology such as WiFi for communication between vehicles. The use of ITS-G5 has seen criticism from European Commission digital chief Andrus Ansip, as well as countries such as Finland and Spain, that such a requirement will put ‘a brake on innovation’. They argue that harking back to older tech goes against the EC’s plan to promote 5G to boost economic growth in Europe.
In a letter written to EU member states, Finland accuses the Commission of alienating 5G from inclusion in the measures.
‘With the current wording of the act, only ITS-G5 i.e. WiFi communication is considered as C-ITS,’ the letter states. ‘We firmly believe that Europe could have broader penetration and faster implementation by giving all technologies a chance. This would not compromise safety.’
The resolution passed by the transport committee argues that a ‘truly technology neutral approach would consider all existing deployments using cellular networks and grant mutual interoperability at the service level, allowing all new technologies to be introduced in addition to ITS-G5’.
Parliament will vote on the Commission's proposal on April 17, which can only be blocked by a majority. The European Council also has a say in the issue but would need a majority of EU countries to derail the proposal.
Connectivity is seen as a key enabler of autonomous vehicles, and for some time 5G systems have been the leading technology to allow vehicles to communicate quickly and safely to each other. Therefore, any requirement to make this new technology fit with older systems would go against a need for progress in the industry, and could also hamper connected vehicle safety.