BMW, Qualcomm triumph in EU 5G ruling for cars

(Bloomberg) -- Qualcomm Inc., BMW AG, and Deutsche Telekom AG clinched a victory Thursday after European Union member states scrapped new rules mandating WiFi technology as the basis for how future connected cars talk to each other.

The ruling is victory for 5G technology as countries around the world prepare for the roll-out of ultra-fast 5G wireless networks, which will power everything from self-driving cars to smart factories.

The legislation -- first proposed in March by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive -- aimed to govern how future connected and automated cars in Europe send information between vehicles and infrastructure, in order to communicate about dangerous situations, road works, traffic lights and more.

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The BMWi Inside Future concept vehicle is displayed during a press event at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The companies had been urging EU legislators to veto it out of concern it would force them to make additional investments to fit a soon-to-be outdated technology, saying WiFi offers poorer performance than cellular-based technology compatible with future 5G networks.

“Member states sent today a strong signal to the commission that technology neutrality should prevail," said Maxime Flament, chief technology officer at the 5G Automotive Association, which includes Qualcomm and Daimler AG as members. "Only a level-playing field between existing technologies will allow safer, more efficient mobility on European roads."

The decision by representatives of the EU’s member states, which still needs to be formally rubber-stamped by its ministers on Monday, forces the commission back to the drawing board to come up with a new proposal.

In a statement, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said she takes "good note" of the decision, stressing the need for an EU-wide cooperative intelligent transport system.

"We cannot miss this opportunity and lose valuable time to make our roads safer," Bulc said. "We will therefore continue to work together with member states to address their concerns and find a suitable way forward."

Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co., and Volvo Group have been proponents of the draft rules favoring WiFi systems, arguing that the industry needs clarity on what systems to use as soon as possible, and that it currently is the only proven technology.