The theme of ITS European Congress taking place in Brainport in the Netherlands from 2nd to 6th June this year was ‘Fulfilling ITS Promises’.  This theme was reflected across the many Sessions, Demonstrations, Exhibition attended by over 3000 delegates as well the stimulating ITS European Summit that took place in the presence of nearly 50 Mayors, city officials and industry delegates. 

ERIC SAMPSON, ERTICO industry expert, relives the experience

Unsurprisingly at the Congress all types of traffic was highlighted – some of it in vehicles with conventional drivers, some of it in driverless vehicles – and how this traffic can be managed in small towns and large cities and whole regions thereby benefitting users, passengers and also freight. Cities are clearly a hot spot where you find the most difficult problems, but also the most innovative solutions and there is an inevitable challenge to balancing multiple city objectives. How can society regulate new technologies such as micro-mobility, change consumer habits from private vehicles to public transport, cope with population movement and ageing, and react to the pressure for low carbon sustainable solutions?

On the topic of the deployment of new mobility services, there were many examples of experimenting with new ITS applications, for example Mobility as a Service (MaaS), to adopting some practical results.   Despite the published and available information on operational MaaS schemes, globally there are not many in existence. Those that do exist are on a relatively small scale rather than country or EU wide with the ticketing and payment elements not developed yet as real time integrated information services.

A key focus for MaaS (and all innovative mobility services) is the role required by government at all levels with communication as a key element. It was agreed that government bodies need to set top level strategies and loosen regulatory regimes.   This will encourage integration across the parties (public sector, private sector and users) to facilitate shared mobility and the deployment of open, interoperable systems.  The Congress reported slow but steady progress in understanding traveller behaviour and designing solutions to encourage people to move away from using their private cars and to encourage car sharing, public transport, walking and cycling.

Air quality, especially in cities, is a cause of concern worldwide and the technical sessions showed conclusively that we have tools that can deliver, traffic management and emissions reduction, speed optimising that reduces fuel consumption and noise, parking guidance that saves time and fuel and cuts emissions and noise and researchers are continuing to explore new solutions.

Connected, cooperative and automated mobility presented an extraordinarily wide range of discussion topics, exhibits and cutting-edge demonstrations.   This subject has moved quickly from testing what might be possible one day to addressing real world deployment tomorrow with rail featuring as well as road. This combination, plus integration with electrification and mobility as a Service is of much interest for what it means to the use of different transport modes and the use of transport-related networks.

The issue of automated vehicle acceptance was quite prominent.   Factors presented and discussed included influencing consumer intentions, building trust, driver training needs, automated vehicle uptake, and scenarios for different use cases.   The potential safety benefits are exciting; but some concerns about safety remain: ‘how safe is safe enough?’

It is clear we still do not have quite enough trials data to address questions as to whether automated transport conflicts with or support  cities’ goals on social inclusion, quality of life, sustainable development or what are the real benefits for ageing or limited mobility travellers?

The sector of freight transport is seeing major developments from the use of data from all types of vehicles for real-time information and predictive traffic management.   However the industry overall is rather fragmented, slow to address interoperability issues, and driven by visible supplier costs rather than a wider perspective of social benefit.   The solutions are available but the deployment policies are missing although cities are very interested in the possible gains from driverless freight vehicles.

The digital infrastructure topic is rising in importance with discussions and papers concerned with the joint work between authorities, academia and industries on projects for future innovative technologies for traffic management, communication systems (including satellite and hybrid) and data management, but relatively little on deployment results.   The sector needs to do more to adopt existing Europe-wide guidance on interoperability and data policies to support open platforms.

The Transport Networks Operations topic gave many examples of new services following the growth of vehicle-infrastructure connectivity and the increasing numbers of on-vehicle sensors.   Dynamic, integrated and data driven Traffic Management is a key benefit from connected vehicles and the data they can supply enabling predictive as well reactive solutions.   Big Data and Artificial Intelligence is already answering real needs in the transport sector.   Moreover it is clear there is a potential value from Big Data in areas that include new business models such as data driven retailing, better customer services and travel experiences and improved efficiency such as operational analytics for maintenance.

A strong message from this Congress is that as a society we are firmly in a Fourth Industrial Revolution of Data Connectivity.  Connectivity anywhere, all the time, between everything.  And as one speaker put it “If data is the new fuel then Artificial Intelligence is the new engine”.

It seems that technology is not the big issue for fulfilling promises – it’s getting its suppliers, regulators, customers and users together to work as a partnership. A holistic approach is necessary to show how issues inter-relate and it needs all stakeholders to cooperate in delivering it.

ERTICO ITS-Europe, has a 30 year track record of bringing public sector and private sector players together to work on common goals and on sharing knowledge across the wider ITS community and the ITS Congress is the perfect venue to deliver on this collaboration.

As a very famous former US President said ‘Change is the law of life.    And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’.