Talking cars will one day be mandatory, but in the meantime, some think they're holding back the airwaves for much-needed Wi-Fi.
As Internet access grows, more and more frequency is needed to support Wi-Fi devices. Some of that frequency — the 5.9 GHz band — has been set aside for talking cars. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which the Transportation Department says will one day be mandatory, allows cars to alert one another to their presence and to warn drivers if a wreck is imminent.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates talking cars could eliminate 80 percent of wrecks not involving driver impairment.
For now, though, the 5.9 GHz band is spectrum that can't be used for Wi-Fi devices. Some see a middle ground in which the frequency is still used for talking cars but shared for some Wi-Fi purposes.
Sens. Marco Rubio and Cory Booker want to see if that's possible. Their Wi-Fi Innovation Act, released Friday, gives the Federal Communications Commission 18 months to test the spectrum to see if it can be shared without interference. "This bill requires the FCC to conduct testing that would provide more spectrum to the public and ultimately put the resource to better use, while recognizing the future needs and important work being done in intelligent transportation," Rubio said in a release.