Toyota Pledges DSRC Connected-Car System for US Vehicles in 2021

Toyota Motor will start selling cars in the US with DSRC, a wireless technology that links vehicles with each other and roadside infrastructure, beginning in 2021.

In announcing the plan on April 16, Toyota put a stake in the ground for a system that has had federal backing for years but faces opposition from some cable and tech companies and competition from emerging cellular technologies.

DSRC — or Dedicated Short-Range Communications — transmits anonymized data, including the location, speed and acceleration of a vehicle, several times per second. With that data, nearby cars can be made aware if the vehicle is stalled, stopped in traffic or about to enter a blind intersection, among other things. Signals may travel car-to-car or go through a local network. Fixed transmitters can also send information like speed limits and hazard warnings to cars.

Toyota and its Lexus luxury brand will start providing DSRC radios in some vehicles beginning in 2021 and adopt it across most of their lineups by the mid-2020s, Toyota said.

The company also called on other automakers to start building the technology into their cars. As the third-largest seller of autos and trucks in the US, Toyota may be in a position to tilt the industry toward adopting DSRC. The system is virtually unavailable today, outside of the Cadillac CTS Sedan, the first US car to incorporate this technology today.

So-called V2X networks, which link vehicles to everything around them, are expected to play a big role in helping autonomous vehicles safely navigate roadways. But even before cars drive themselves, V2X could make drivers, and driver assistance systems, more aware of conditions and better able to prevent accidents.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules for DSRC in 2003, assigning it dedicated frequencies in the 5.9GHz band. Since then, however, the technology has been slow to emerge, and powerful cable and technology companies have called on the government to open up the valuable spectrum to other uses — especially as spectrum-hungry 5G’s arrival looms closer. The Obama administration proposed making DSRC mandatory in late 2016, but that plan has faced strong opposition related to areas such as privacy, security and technology lock-in, among others.

Meanwhile, some mobile industry heavyweights advocate cellular technologies, including 5G, as the best solution for V2X communication. Qualcomm, which already supplies DSRC silicon, also supports a system called C-V2X that, it claims, has longer range, higher capacity and better reliability. C-V2X could ship in cars next year, the vendor says. On Monday, cell equipment vendor Nokia and Japanese carrier KDDI launched a V2X trial in Japan using an LTE Broadcast network.

To counter this, Toyota contends DSRC is already standardized, so other cars with these radios will be able to talk to Toyotas, and this solution doesn’t require a cellular network to operate, so car owners won’t need to pay for cell service for their vehicles.

The US Department of Transportation now funds DSRC pilots in New York City, Wyoming, and Tampa, Florida. The Tampa pilot will use radios added on to consumers’ cars. They will get alerts about traffic ahead, oncoming vehicles, wrong-way driving and other issues.

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