Twenty years ago automakers won exclusive rights to use a portion of U.S. airwaves for ultra-safe “talking cars” that would communicate with each other wirelessly, seeing around corners and averting collisions.

That future hasn’t arrived. And now with just one talking vehicle on the roads – a lonely Cadillac model – cable providers want to loosen automakers’ hold on the frequencies.

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, a trade group with members including top U.S. cable provider Comcast Corp., on Tuesday asked regulators to open those airwaves for use by Wi-Fi signals that will shoulder more and more of cable subscribers’ traffic.

“Use of this band has failed,” the NCTA said in a petition to the Federal Communications Commission. The U.S. “can no longer afford” to allocate those airwaves exclusively for vehicle-to-vehicle communications “with the hope that the next twenty years will somehow be different than the last two decades of stagnation,” the group said.

Instead, the NCTA wants the FCC to begin a new proceeding to allocate all or a large portion of the 5.9 gigahertz spectrum for so-called unlicensed use by Wi-Fi devices to alleviate a shortage of available bandwidth.

The group also asked the FCC to conclude its current proceeding on the talking-car airwaves, in which the agency is studying whether unlicensed devices can safely share the 5.9 gigahertz wireless spectrum with connected vehicles without interfering with crash-avoidance messages beamed between cars and roadside infrastructure.

Automakers led by General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have been major proponents of the technology that relays data about vehicle speed and direction wirelessly between cars and roadside infrastructure to prevent collisions.

Under the Obama administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed requiring so-called vehicle-to-vehicle radios on all new automobiles by 2023, citing agency research projecting that it could prevent 80 percent of all non-impaired collisions.

The mandate has stalled under the Trump administration. NHTSA has taken no action since a comment period on the proposed mandate closed in April 2017.

Read or Share this story: