CES Panel: Public Policy, Regulations for 5G and Self-Driving

The Internet of Things and 5G are just two areas impacting self-driving and connectivity, said CTA senior director of government affairs Jamie Boone, who noted the sector’s public policy challenges. Verizon VP public policy Melissa Glidden Tye said that her company launched 5G in October 2018 and has “big plans for autonomous vehicles (AVs) and smart cities” this year. “5G has been dubbed the fourth Industrial Revolution,” she said. “Everything that can be connected will be.” Waymo just passed 10 million miles, another significant milestone.

Tye suggested that a speedier network is necessary to scale up. “The other angle is that it can expand the data points for vehicles, with the sensors and Lidar,” she said. “We can have connected infrastructure in smart cities.”

With a successful test bed in Phoenix, Waymo knows what it takes to get people into AVs. “It’s not magic, said Waymo chief external officer Tekedra Mawakana. “It’s ensuring it addresses their use case. You want to get safely from Point A to Point B.” Waymo introduced its commercial service, Waymo One, for hundreds of early riders in Phoenix.

Samsung Electronics America SVP of public policy John Godfrey said his company is talking about bridging the Internet with the physical world. “And 5G is key to doing that along with IoT and cloud computing,” he explained. “Making mobility available to everyone is a worthy direction to go.” Samsung has regulatory approval for Verizon’s 5G network, and now AT&T and Sprint have selected Samsung as a partner on 5G. The company also purchased Harman International, which offers infotainment systems for vehicles.

Smart cities is a buzzword, said Boone, but it’s also somewhat of a misnomer. Tye remarked that the head of what was formerly called the Verizon Smart Cities group insists on the term “smart communities.” “At this moment, it’s more in cities, but there are a lot of applications outside of cities,” she said. “Smart communities make sure the technologies are available to everyone in a community, not just the affluent sectors.”

Godfrey added that, “to be a smart community you have to be a 5G community.” “It requires a regulatory framework that allows people to deploy cost effectively, meaning a reasonable time and fees for deployment of infrastructure,” he noted. “Communities have a role to play as a user and partner with private sector. Now is the time for the regulatory streamlining for 5G.”

Mawakana pointed out that Waymo cars do not rely on cellular connections, even at 5G, for their driving technology. “It would have been unpopular to start with infrastructure investment with regulators five or six years ago,” she said. But she added that the 5G network will enable various useful two-way communications for non-driving tasks.

Godfrey believes that now is the time to get public policy moving on these issues. “It’s a challenging time in Washington, but 5G and transportation should have bipartisan consensus,” he said. “Congress could pass an infrastructure legislation to improve the roadways and make sure there’s fiber or wireless in the roads, and sensors and roadside beacons as well.”