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BMW, Qualcomm battle against VW, Renault on connected car rules

At issue is the need for future-ready 5G networks instead of outmoded WiFi

Brussels

QUALCOMM Inc, BMW AG, and Deutsche Telekom AG are facing off against carmakers including Volkswagen AG, Renault SA and Volvo Group over how automobiles "talk" to one another.

At issue are the rules of the road for future connected and automated cars in Europe, which will dictate how to send information between vehicles and infrastructure, such as making cars aware of other vehicles on the road as well as relaying signals from traffic lights and other facilities.

The European Parliament was set to vote on Wednesday on draft rules by the European Commission, the bloc's executive body, that would endorse WiFi technology pushed by VW, General Motors and Volvo Group.

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BMW and other car and telecom firms are urging European Union (EU) legislators to scrap the rules, arguing the law would force them to make additional investments to fit a soon-to-be outdated technology, which offers poorer performance than cellular-based technology compatible with future 5G networks.

"We are convinced that mandating WiFi technology will cause significant delays to the European rollout of car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication," BMW chief executive officer Harald Krueger and Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges said in a joint letter to Germany's Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer.

In a statement published on Monday, car and IT associations including 5GAA - which includes Qualcomm, Ford Motor Co, and Daimler AG as members - also called on the European Parliament and the European member states to reject the law, saying it will "downsize safety gains, negatively impact the competitiveness of our automotive sector and the development of 5G technology in Europe".

The cheerleaders for using WiFi - including Volkswagen, Renault, MAN and NXP Semiconductors NV - argue that the industry needs clarity on what systems to use as soon as possible, and that it currently is the only proven technology.

The second largest truckmaker, Sweden's Volvo Group, said the draft legislation still leaves room to embrace 5G technology in the future. "We have worked with this since 2007 and it has proven to be a technology that fulfils all requirements," Volvo's director of connected vehicles Hossein Zakizadeh said about WiFi based systems. "Most cellular products are prototypes at this stage, so it's a little bit too soon to say whether these technologies will be competitors.''

The critics scored an early win last week after the European Parliament's transport committee rejected the commission's draft, unveiled in March. In an email obtained by Bloomberg, Dominique Riquet, the vice-chair of the parliamentary transport committee, called on his parliament colleagues to reject the draft law, arguing for tech neutrality.

Should the European Parliament back the committee, it would force the commission back to the drawing board. If Parliament backs the commission's draft, European member states could still decide to veto it. BLOOMBERG