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FCC Licensing Decision Will Help Advance Safe Transportation

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Contact: Nancy Singer, 202-366-0660
FHWA 35-03

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today welcomed a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to move forward in licensing an exclusive radio spectrum for use on roads at very short ranges.  The decision opens the way for advanced crash avoidance systems, safer highway-railroad intersections and traffic signal changers exclusive to emergency vehicles.

"The FCC's decision will help advance big improvements in transportation safety," Secretary Mineta said.  "This new radio spectrum will help prevent crashes, bring important real-time information into cars, and let drivers concentrate on driving."

The new technology, which is called Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), applies to Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) operations and works only at very short ranges (under 100 yards).  It can be used only for communication between vehicles and the roadside or between vehicles that are close together. 

Currently such devices, like electronic toll tags, operate on a radio frequency used by a wide variety of other devices, including cordless phones and garage door openers.  The broader spectrum approved by the FCC today provides for a larger range of options and leads the way for developing advanced crash avoidance systems.  Because the new spectrum is dedicated to transportation purposes only, the possibility of dangerous interference between signals has been virtually eliminated.

Among the applications for DSRC are "intelligent intersections," which could warn drivers of a potential crash before entering the intersection and could also alert drivers when it is safe to proceed through an intersection.  This potential application was demonstrated in June 2003 at the Federal Highway Administration's research facility in McLean, VA, as part of the USDOT's Intelligent Vehicle Initiative National Meeting. 

Future uses for DSRC also could include in-vehicle traveler information, highway rail intersection warnings and traffic signal preemption for emergency vehicles.

The USDOT has been working on future uses of DSRC since the mid-1990s. In 1997, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), on behalf of the transportation industry, petitioned the FCC for a specific band of frequencies (at 5.9 GigaHertz (GHz)) for transportation uses. 

 In October 1999, the FCC granted the petition to allocate the band to the DSRC uses requested, with the stipulation that public safety uses would have priority.  In that ruling, the FCC postponed defining the rules on how and to whom the spectrum would be licensed - the decisions that were announced today.

The USDOT is working with manufacturers to help make this technology available on the market by 2005.

More information on ITS and DSRC is at  For further information on the specifics of licensing for DSRC is at


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