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A channel estimation scheme for the design of a 5.9 GHz dedicated short-range communications receiver for the purpose of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-roadside communications is proposed. The receiver is based on the popular wireless local area network standard IEEE 802.11a, but with extended symbol duration. On the basis of analyses and simulations, the proposed receiver has superior design characteristics for the harsh channel conditions of wireless access vehicular environments. The performance of the proposed scheme is tested under varying velocity, signal-to-noise ratios, transmission modes, packet lengths and channel properties. The proposed design improves the overall packet error rate performance, enabling the system to achieve higher data rates and larger packet lengths at high relative velocities. Simulation results show slight improvements in the quadrature phase-shift keying transmission, whereas there is substantial improvement in the cases of 16- and 64-ary quadrature amplitude modulations compared to conventional design.