Sitting in a small, pedal-powered toy car, I was joking with two Lithuanian policemen in the seaside town of Palanga whilst my Danish friend wandered inside to report the loss of his wallet.
We had hired the little red tourist vehicle to cycle 6km out of the town to reach the police station and I was trying, unsuccessfully, to convince the officers that we were going to pedal all the way across the country, to the capital city, Vilnius.
“Good Luck” they shouted as we cycled off again, back to the town to collect our real car.
The drive across Lithuania wasn’t a high-tech journey, I don’t remember much traffic, and due to Lithuania’s relatively small size – the journey only lasted a few hours.
However, on 1st July 2013, Lithuania took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, promised to put “new technologies and mobility” high on the transport agenda. So, I was curious to find out how the ITS industry developing on the ground in Lithuania?, what systems have they implemented? and what priorities are they currently working on?
I contacted Dainius Diska, CEO of ITS Lithuania to find out.
ITS Lithuania, he tells me, was established in September 2011 as the first such organisation in Baltic States and represents a wide range of sectors within the ITS community, including the central government, local authorities, automotive industry, transport operators, manufacturers and academic/research institutions.
Together they contribute to the development and implementation of ITS projects in Lithuania with the aim of delivering real economic efficiency, transport safety, and environmental and human well-being.
“What is the current status of ITS in Lithuania?” I asked. “Are there any key projects taking place?”
Dainius tells me that, in the past 20 years, 35 ITS projects have been carried out in Lithuania with a total value of 140, 5 million EUR. The majority of the projects (82%) have been oriented to traffic control. These include:
The Vilnius traffic management system
In June 2007 the city of Vilnius was the first city in the Baltic States to introduce a city-wide intelligent traffic management system (TMS). The system includes many components, such as a dedicated Traffic Management Centre, traffic sensors and traffic light controllers, and a driver information and traffic monitoring system (www.sviesoforai.lt).
A National Traffic and Road Information System
Forty three automated road weather stations, with facilities to watch weather conditions and video cameras, as well as traffic counters have been deployed on every road of national importance across Lithuania. To control the system, a Traffic Information Centre at the premises of Lithuanian Road Administration has been equipped with a state-of-the-art video (monitored around the clock) and when the system is complete – traffic information will be made available both to special services and to travellers.
E – Ticketing
Since 2007 electronic ticketing (e-ticketing) has been in operation in cities of Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda. The technology was implemented with help of EU funding. Thanks to the project a unified e-ticketing and passenger information system exists, covering the networks which are operated with buses and trolleybuses and are open for new services such as parking payments and bike sharing etc.
“Who is implementing these systems?” I ask, curious to know if there are many local ITS companies or manufacturers.
“We use products from all the well-known producers in Europe and other regions”, Dainius explains “and they cooperate closely with local Lithuanian companies. Certainly there are local ITS companies as well”.
“Hnit Baltic, for example, is the largest and most experienced geographic information systems (GIS) software and solutions based on the generating companies in Eastern and Central Europe started its activities in Lithuania in 1993. Affecto Lietuva is one of the leading IT services and solution providers in Lithuania and Baltic states, and Merakas (a Lithuanian company) develops software tools for timetable planning.”
Lithuania is small state with just over 3 million people, so I ask if this helps the development of the ITS industry? or if it make things more challenging?
“How can a small state whose population totals just over 3 million surprise the world?” Dainius responds rhetorically. “Sometimes small is more flexible, but in our world of globalization, it looks more challenging,”
“Continuous innovation plays a central role in the future role of Lithuania’s economy and the country aspires to be the innovation center of the North Baltic region.”
The country has prioritised road optimisation and the provision of traffic and travel data.
To achieve these goals, Lithuania is contributing to EU-wide multimodal travel and real-time traffic information services and minimum universal traffic information services. The country provides information on the tracking and tracing of freight and is currently developing priority actions such as EU-wide eCall services.
Lithuania is also developing reservation and information systems for safe and secure parking places for trucks and commercial vehicles and working on projects to link vehicles with the transport infrastructure.
This is an impressive list for a small country, but I want to know how Dainius would make things even better. I ask him how he would spend 10 million Euros on ITS in Lithuania?
The answer is straightforward: education.
“ITS is quite a new area of study” says Dainius explains. “Our specialists rarely participate in international research projects due to either insufficient experience, or too little information about upcoming events. So, my direction to spend money would be creation of technical base for some University, like ITS solution technical base center for students, for testing relevant ITS solutions and creating new ITS technologies.”
Finally, I asked Dainius what his favourite ITS system is?
“Personally, for me, the most important issue is safety in transport infrastructure,” he says. “Pedestrians, drivers, cyclists and passengers – all of them are important participants in our transport community. Programs like the EU’s ‘Zero Vision’ initiative, is the right way to improve things, where we can focus on creation new technologies and programs to save more lives.”
If Lithuania is able to contribute to broader European initiatives and have an impact in this area, then regardless of its size – I am sure it will have a big impact on all of us, and maybe one day it really will be safe to cycle from Palanga to Vilnius in a small, plastic pedal-powered car.
ERTICO ITS Europe