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by Theresa, Tuesday, April 13, 2004, 21:30

Automotive RFID Gets Rolling


The Federal Highway Administration awards a contract to develop a 5.9 GHz RFID system to cut road fatalities in the U.S. by 50%.

By Jonathan Collins

Apr. 13, 2004 - With government funding and access to a large swath of radio spectrum, four RFID developers are starting work on a new generation of RFID products aimed at bringing greater safety and new wireless applications to U.S. roads. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has called on Mark IV Industries, Raytheon, SIRIT and TransCore - companies that supply systems for the largest RFID toll deployments in the U.S. - to jointly develop dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology systems for a trial as part of the agency's efforts to cut road fatalities in the U.S. by 50% within 10 years.

The goal of the group and its government backers is to use DRSC to enhance the safety and the productivity of the nation's transportation system. The DSRC prototype initiative is a prerequisite for introducing new roadway applications such as issuing alerts to drivers about impending intersection collisions, rollovers, weather-related road hazards, or warning a driver that his vehicle is going too fast to safely negotiate an upcoming curve. DRSC technology could also be used for commercial applications such as downloading driving maps.

Proponents of the technology maintain that DSRC systems will also be able to replace existing highway RFID applications such as automatic toll collection systems like EZ-Pass. "There is nothing that current systems do that DSRC systems won't be able to do in a breeze - while it's idling in fact," says Richard Schnacke, vice president of industry relations for TransCore and the chairman and spokesperson for the DSRC Industry Consortium. The group's members consists not only of the four companies selected to develop the DRSC-system prototype, but also includes Atheros and Intersil, two major suppliers of 802.11 chipsets.

The promise of DRSC, which its proponents consider a subset of RFID, is to deliver a far greater data rate and range to wireless highway applications. "Compared with existing RFID toll applications, DRSC will deliver data rates of 25 Megabits per second, instead of 250 kilobits, and a range of up to 1 km, instead of 10 meters," says Schnacke.

Key to the ability of the technology to deliver that kind of performance is the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) dedication of a large block of radio frequency spectrum, from 5.850 to 5.925 GHz (the 5.9 GHz band), to DSRC applications.


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