20 September 2013

With Croatia becoming the 28th country joining the EU 1st July 2013, this article takes a close look at the current ITS status and future outlook in Croatia.

by Maria De Rycke

ITS in Croatia has known a rapid and accelerated development in the recent two decades. ITS research projects backed by public and private initiatives led to the formation of the necessary collaborative platforms in Croatia for ITS development and deployment. The Republic of Croatia is committed to secure the safe, accurate, energy efficient and ecological and environmental friendly transportation of people and goods, especially with regard to the high number of tourists during the summer period. Hence Croatia’s focus on the implementation of new traffic management systems, parking management and intermodal transport . International harmonisation is also a key priority for Croatia. The adoption of the EU ITS Directive of 2011 (1) earmarked the harmonised provision for an interoperable EU-wide eCall (the European emergency number) as a national ITS priority. International harmonisation of transport systems also opens opportunities for wider, regional cooperation.

Sound platform for ITS development

Already back in the 80s and 90s, road telematics was on the agenda in institutions such as the University of Zagreb and private companies such as Ericsson Nikola Tesla. At the end of the 1990s a group of transport and traffic scientists, led by the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences of the University of Zagreb, recognised the importance of ITS and initiated a number of research projects. Among these projects were general models of ITS and their modal mapping, methods for development of integrated intelligent transport systems and the methodology for the development of an integrated adaptive transport and logistics system. The projects were supported by Croatia’s Ministry of Science or other public bodies and public-owned companies. The creation of the Croatian Institute for Construction – IGH and first business initiatives helped to spread the ITS idea.

In 2005, ITS was included as a new branch in Croatia’s National Classification of Scientific Areas. In the same year ITS Croatia was founded as a scientific and professional nongovernmental organisation with the aim to promote and achieve harmonised development of ITS in Croatia. The main objectives of ITS Croatia are to stimulate and promote the cooperation among members in the development of the national architecture of ITS and theharmonised development of ITS in Croatia, to form public scientific and professional opinion about ITS, and to cooperate with ITS associations on a European and global level.

The Business Innovation Centre of Croatia – BICRO – was established to enhance further collaboration between research and business entities. This governmental agency provides the support to technological development and commercialisation of research results through researchers and business cooperation also ensuring financial, material and other necessary preconditions for innovation development. The importance and role of ITS and intelligent road telematics was recognised and supported by BICRO.

Croatia’s ITS development strategy

Prof. Sadko Mandzuka, President of ITS Croatia, Member of the Croatian Council for the development of ITS in road transport and Head of the Chair of Transport Telematics of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic of the University of Zagreb, was interviewed by ERTICO in September 2013 on Croatia’s ITS development strategy. He confirmed that this ITS strategy is strongly linked to the implementation of new traffic management systems/centres. It includes adaptive traffic control, public transport management, parking management and intermodal transport in cities and ferry ports.

This strategy will enable the development of small and medium enterprises with focus on manufacturing of management systems and telematics equipment. Prof. Mandzuka believes that future public-private partnerships will enable, lead and accelerate the development and implementation of various ITS systems and services in Croatia. Following its EU counterparts, Croatia plans to set up a special department in the Ministry of Transport dedicated to ITS. The goal of this department would be the development of methods and measurements required to encourage the development and implementation related to ITS in Croatia, as well as monitoring the performance of ongoing plans.

In a European context, international harmonisation is necessary to avoid potential obstacles in the traffic flows on the important pan European corridors passing through Croatia. Given the global financial and economic situation and the condition of the Croatian economy, Prof. Mandzuka is expecting that Croatia would need financial support in order to implement different ITS systems and services.

It appears that Croatia will rely considerably on private sector initiatives for the further development of ITS services.

EU Membership

In 2013 Croatia joined the EU. During an ERTICO conversation with a high level Croatian ITS stakeholder representing both the business and academic stakeholders, it was confirmed that Croatia expects enormous benefits from EU membership. The country will be able to integrate with the established and the future transport ITS infrastructure built jointly by EU members. Croatia will take part in various activities starting from Horizon 2020 to different EU based professional organisations and initiatives. EU membership will provide the Croatian ITS community with the opportunity to join several COST action groups (2). Some of these action groups target ITS development, standardisation, especially in the area of GNSS-based (Galileo) (3) development. For Croatian ITS specialists, there is currently a learning curve as to the best way to join their EU counterparts, how to leverage the benefits from joining the EU platforms and how to take part in the technology and business ITS development. Therefore, Croatia will need to establish the appropriate procedures and infrastructure to manage these interfaces.

In line with the ITS Directive from the European Commission, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure of Croatia will develop guidelines for the deployment of priority areas of ITS. These areas included the provision of EU-wide real-time traffic information services; data and procedures for the provision, where possible, of road safety related minimum universal traffic information free of charge to users; the harmonised provision for an interoperable EU-wide eCall; and the provision of information services for safe and secure parking places for trucks and commercial vehicles and the provision of reservation services for safe and secure parking places for trucks and commercial vehicles.

Successful eCall pilot project

In line with above mentioned priorities, Croatia has been an active partner in the HeERO consortium current testing and validating in real life conditions the European eCall standards defined and approved by the European Standardisation Bodies. The Croatian National consortium is led by the National Protection and Rescue Directorate (NPRD) with active participation from several stakeholders such as Ericsson Nikola Tesla and the Croatian auto club (Hrvatski autoklub).

Pavao Britvic of the NPRD and the Croatian eCall Pilot National Co-ordinator, confirmed in an interview to ERTICO in September 2013 that all requirements for eCall implementation have been fulfilled. Croatia has recognised eCall as an enabling technology, a foundation on which ITS systems and services can build. The integration of different services from multiple stakeholders is vital for the economy of scale. Vehicle manufacturers, mobile network operations and service providers are essential to what can be done and what can be offered.

ITS development in the South-Eastern Region

In order to harmonise transport systems within the EU, a regional Balkan cooperation provides an additional opportunity.

Croatia is an active partner in the South-East Europe Transport Observatory (SEETO) (4). This regional transport organisation established in 2004 plays a vital role in the process of transport and infrastructure development in the South-East Europe. Along the infrastructure development, its main role is to improve the quality of services and transport efficiency. According to the SEETO Secretariat in Belgrade, one of the strategic priorities for transport in the entire region is to reduce transport barriers and bottlenecks; as well as to improve the regional interconnections, in order to attract the regional, European and international commercial traffic flows.

Prof. Mandzuka emphasied the importance of the Croatian participation in the South-East Europe ITS (SEE ITS) (5) project. This project aims to stimulate co-operation and interoperability between isolated ITS applications as to ensure seamless mobility through the TERN (Trans-European Road Network) (6) motorways. Integration with urban/interurban road networks, as well with other transport modes, such as public transport, ports and inland waterways, are on the agenda. SEE-ITS will develop an institutional and technical framework through which SEE organisations and countries can harmonise ITS specifications.

Extra information/reference:

1. The EU ITS Directive establishes the framework to accelerate and co-ordinate ITS deployment in road transport and interfaces across EU.

2. COST is an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology allowing the coordination of nationally-funded research on a European level hence reducing the fragmentation in European research investments and opening the European Research Area to cooperation worldwide.

3. GNSS stands for global navigation satellite system. The European Union’s Galileo positioning system is a GNSS in initial deployment phase scheduled to be fully operational by 2020 at the earliest.

4. The governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo and the European Commission signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the development of the Core Regional Transport Network that established the SEETO.

5. On 20 December 2007 the European Commission approved the Transnational Cooperation Programme “South-East Europe” for the period 2007-2013. SEE ITS is a programme in the framework of the Regional Policy’s Territorial Cooperation Objective. Its aims to improve integration and competitiveness in an area that is as complex as it is diverse. 16 countries are involved (majority EU member states, candidate member states as well as countries participating in the European Neighbourhood Policy).

6. The Trans-European road network (TERN) was defined by EU Council Decision of October 29, 1993 and is a project to improve the internal road infrastructure of the EU.