The decision is expected to align US and European standards, potentially improving collision-avoidance systems.
The Federal Communications Commission has moved to expand wireless spectrum allocation for collision-avoidance systems in modern vehicles.
Automakers will benefit from a five-fold increase in spectrum at the 76-81 GHz band. Vehicle radars will gradually be excluded from other currently-accepted bands to harmonize US regulations with Europe and other countries.
"This is consistent with the spectrum that is available internationally, avoiding the need to customize the radars in vehicles for different markets," the FCC said in a statement.
The announcement follows other federal initiatives aimed at hastening deployment of advanced automated safety technology for vehices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is still working to implement regulatory reforms to pave the way for fully autonomous technology. In the meantime, most major automakers have agreed to voluntarily make automatic emergency braking standard by 2022, which could save thousands of lives annually.
FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly said he was hesitant to approve the spectrum expansion, noting that the automotive industry was handed a 5.9-GHz band for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications systems nearly two decades ago but there is currently "little to show for it." He admitted, however, that there may be a technological benefit to the latest spectrum consolidation that could make cars safer.
"While long range radars have been operating in one gigahertz of spectrum at 76-77 GHz, a case has been made that short-range radars need four gigahertz of spectrum to provide the necessary higher resolution to detect and identify objects at close range," he said.
The spectrum band will also be made available to aircraft and airport equipment to help identify runway debris and avoid aircraft collisions on taxiways.