European Union states opened the way to competing technologies for internet connected cars on Thursday, rejecting a European Commission push for a wifi-based standard backed by Volkswagen. The result represents a win for BMW and Qualcomm which support a rival 5G telecoms system. Germany, France and Italy, with powerful car industries, were among 21 countries to vote against the EC proposal at a Brussels meeting of EU representatives, an EU official said. This contrasted with EU lawmakers in April who endorsed the wifi plan over 5G technology. The auto and tech industries have been split over which technology works better and is safer.
The European Commision, which wants to set benchmarks for a market that could generate billions of euros in revenues for carmakers, telecoms operators and equipment makers, has said wifi is available now, unlike 5G, and would help road safety. “We will therefore continue to work together with member states to address their concerns and find a suitable way forward,” European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement on Thursday following the vote.
Other supporters of wifi technology, which primarily connects cars with other cars, include Renault, Toyota, NXP, Autotalks and Kapsch TrafficCom. Meanwhile the backers of fifth generation (5G) standard, which will hook up to both cars and devices in the surrounding environment, include Daimler, Ford, PSA Group, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel and Samsung.
Supporters of 5G say it has a wider range of applications in areas such as entertainment, traffic data and navigation. The vote was welcomed by telecoms lobbying group ETNO, whose members have spent billions investing in 5G. “Mobile solutions and 5G are back in the road safety picture. The automotive industry is now free to choose the best technology to protect road users and drivers,” ETNO director general Lise Fuhr said.
5G supporter 5GAA said the vote represented “a strong signal to the Commission that technology neutrality should prevail”, Chief Technology Officer Maxime Flament said. “Only a level-playing field between existing technologies will allow safer, more efficient mobility on European roads.”
EU ministers are due to meet on July 8 when they are expected to formally reject the wifi proposal.
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