Bulc pleads with European Parliament: Support WiFi for connected car security

A general view of the new FCA Fiat Panda connected with telephone company Wind during a press conference in Turin, Italy, 04 April 2019. [EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO]

WiFi should be deployed in connected vehicles rather than 5G due to safety concerns that may result in an increase in the EU’s 25,000 annual road deaths, a letter written by EU’s Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc to the European Parliament, states.

Obtained by EURACTIV, Bulc’s plea to the Parliament’s Transport Chairwoman Karima Delli attempts to dissuade MEPs from obstructing the Commission’s cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS) plans, claiming that WiFi should be deployed in connected vehicles due to safety concerns over 5G.

“More than 25,000 people still lose their lives on our roads every year and 135,000 are seriously injured,” Bulc writes. “That is why we need C-ITS…to make a step-change by making mobility safer through direct interactions between road users and infrastructure.”

“There is only one technology available today: WiFi,” she adds.

Finland raises concerns in 5G vs WiFi connected vehicle debate

Finland has hit out at European Commission plans to develop cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS), saying the measures are “not technically neutral,” according to a letter obtained by EURACTIV.

The Commission’s text adopted on March 13 has been drafted as a Delegated Act, a fast-track legislative procedure that can only be approved or rejected by MEPs.

The European Parliament’s Transport Committee is set to vote on their position on Monday (8 April), and Bulc’s letter is seen as an attempt to deter Parliamentarians from putting a halt to the file on the basis of their preference for 5G to be used rather than WiFi.

As part of the wider debate, while certain car manufacturers would prefer the commission to see the benefits of installing satellite vehicle-to-vehicle communication, otherwise known as V2V and based on short-range WiFi signals, telecoms operators are talking up the positives of legislating in favour of C-V2X systems, a longer-range vehicle-to-infrastructure technology using 5G networks.

Bulc’s letter on Thursday came a day after the Finish delegation to the EU accused the Commission of alienating 5G from inclusion in the measures, saying the plans are “not technically neutral,” as had been previously claimed by the EU executive.

In addition, Finland highlighted concerns with the Commission’s requirement of ‘backward interoperability,’ which relates to the compatibility of a technological system with an older one. In this case, it refers to 5G being used to operate on older WiFi systems.

“The requirement for backward interoperability is a practical problem in relation to the non-technological neutrality. We believe that backward interoperability requirement is both unfair and unbalanced,” the letter states.

Bulc has also faced internal obstacles, following criticism from Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, who told her in a letter that he continues “to disagree strongly with the view that there is a need for backward compatibility of alternative technologies.”

Should the Parliament or the Council fail to explicitly oppose the measures before May 13, the delegated act would automatically pass into law.

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[Edited by Ben Fox]

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