by Henry Wasung
The Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) was set up to run between 2007 and 2013 partly in response to the Lisbon European Council of March 2000 which set the objective of making the European Union the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. A lofty goal but the CIP aimed to contribute by filling in the missing gap between R&D and actual deployment.
Vital elements of the CIP are its focus on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and a European-wide exchange of best practice. The CIP is divided into three programmes – the ICT Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP) is the one that directly addresses ITS with its focus on inter alia energy efficiency and sustainable mobility.
One interesting aspect of the CIP is its aim to redress the relatively slow uptake of ICT innovations a theme which is often present in the ITS world.
FREILOT (Urban Freight Energy Efficiency Pilot) coordinated by ERTICO was one of the first ITS projects financed under the CIP starting in 2009 and running to September 2012. Logically it is also one of the first ITS pilots under CIP to be completed. As such it offers interesting lessons not just in its own remit that of urban freight efficiency but also in general terms regarding the CIP itself.
FREILOT focuses on increasing energy efficiency in urban freight transport. This could be considered quite a narrow aim or a specialised field especially if one compares it to its parent project CVIS.
But that is precisely its strength says project coordinator Zeljko Jeftic “Freight area is a field where positive business cases can be found even with limited scale implementations of ITS services. By having focused on these we could make real progress in a number of vital areas.”
Where to start? Firstly urban freight transport is a hot political topic. If we look at the European level urban freight transport ticks at least three of the six areas of the ITS Action Plan
• Traffic and freight management
• Road safety and security
• Integrating ITS applications in the vehicle
Looking at national level and taking the United Kingdom as one extreme urban freight transport proposals such as increasing truck size/weight are proving controversial with cycling and road safety groups aghast at the prospect of ever larger trucks navigating city streets.
At a regional/city level urban freight transport is high up in citizens’ concerns and is thus often addressed by city mobility or transport plans. It is no coincidence that Helmond the Netherlands sporting a very ambitious Mobility Plan (Helmond Mobiel 2015) is one of the pilot cities in FREILOT. “Being one of Europe’s première pilot cities for ITS is not a feather in our cap it is a real and necessary part of our efforts to make Helmond both a pleasant city to live and efficient in competing for business” according to Gert Blom City of Helmond Mobility Adviser and winner of the iMobility Award (2011) for excellence in policy making. Likewise in Bilbao the FREILOT pilot was part of the Urban Freight Distribution Optimisation Plan underlining the commitment of the Municipality of Bilbao in this regard.
Secondly by focusing on urban freight transport you have clearly defined stakeholders and already a notion of the business case. The key to deploying cooperative technology is working out who pays for what and how long it takes for the costs to be recouped. Even taking into account the progress made from the days of CIVS when the computers needed filled half a trunk with a cost to match to the current situation of a tablet PC or even an Android phone with a rather more agreeable price tag the details of how the necessary roadside equipment should be installed and paid for will make or break the FREILOT system.
Thirdly and quite simply the roll-out of cooperative mobility technology has to start somewhere and by focusing a one part of the potential market – and a highly competitive part where freight companies are always looking for an advantage – a cooperative mobility foothold can be secured which can then be expanded.
Another strength of the FREILOT is its à la carte approach. With a menu of five energy efficiency mobility options city/road authorities and/or fleet operators can choose the services which contribute to their mobility goals. In this way Helmond for example opted for intersection control adaptive speed control acceleration control and eco-driving support because taking into account the characteristics of the city and the 2015 Mobility Plan it was freight transport using the city as a through route which was the main challenge. Whereas in Bilbao to take another FREILOT pilot city a major challenge is the congestion and inefficiency caused by double parked vehicles and illegally occupied loading bays. So in Bilbao the city administration opted for real-time loading/delivery space booking.
Three years six months
“It’s certainly been an exhausting if very rewarding three and a half years” says Zeljko Jeftic. “From the beginning steps of adapting and fine-tuning the CVIS systems for FREILOT’s needs to organising the pilot phase itself and disseminating it to meet the differing needs of each of the pilot sites to analysing the large amounts of data and working out a detailed business plan the enthusiasm and belief of the FREILOT partners have overcome all the challenges to produce a result we can all be proud of.”
So what has been achieved these past years? After the vital if unglamorous work of setting the project up and defining roles and procedures the FREILOT consortium placed great emphasis on local launch events in the pilot cities in order to fully engage local partners garner local regional and national publicity according to the needs of each pilot (in Bilbao to increase the number of participating trucks in Helmond to help secure the support of city politicians following the local elections) and to mark the start of the pilot phase.
The actual characteristics of the pilot phase varied hugely between the pilot sites. First of all each pilot site opted for a different combination of FREILOT services. Secondly even when the same service was piloted the implementation could vary according to needs – and budget – of the pilot site. In Bilbao for instance a whole new real-time loading/delivery space booking system was put in place complete with LED lights installed in the loading bays indicating whether or not the bay was free reserved illegally occupied etc. Whereas Lyon opted for a simpler upgrade to its existing facilities thanks in part to budgetary considerations.
The first major success in FREILOT was the expansion of the service offering beyond its core constituency – urban freight delivery – to other actors. In Helmond the fire brigade joined the pilot phase. As Gert Blom put it “The interest of the emergency service is an important spin-off which will further strengthen the Helmond after-project business case and help pave the way for FREILOT deployment in other European cities”. Likewise in Krakow the FREILOT system was fitted to municipal busses with the aim of increasing timetable accuracy by assigning greater intersection priority to busses running late.
The next success came from Spain. In April 2011 Bilbao and FREILOT received the National Award for Best Project of the Year in the field of freight transport. Amongst factors cited as reasons for the award were the fact that FREILOT was open to all freight companies operating in Bilbao for FREILOT being fully integrated into the city’s mobility plan and for the pilot’s innovative character.
The next major success came in Helmond. With the intersection control service working well from the perspective of the city authorities the equipment supplier and the freight company involved things started moving very quickly with the announcement in September 2010 by Peek Traffic/Imtech of the first commercial platform for cooperative intelligent transport systems in Europe – based on FREILOT.
As Willem Hartman Managing Director of Peek Nederland said “Cooperative systems ensure intelligent communication between vehicles as well as between vehicles and roadside systems. In recent years Peek has acquired practical experience by participating in such successful European research projects as CVIS Safespot and the FREILOT project in Helmond. There is a great demand for applying this technology. Imtech/Peek’s cooperative ITS platform meets the highest criteria of European standardisation and corresponds perfectly with Beter Benutten a programme for making better use of infrastructure that has been launched by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.”
During the FREILOT final event in June 2012 the Imtech/Peek announcement was complemented by the decision of Helmond municipality to continue the FREILOT services thus meeting the CIP objective of ensuring piloted services survive the end of the pilot itself. Based on the positive results of the pilot phase the partners involved (the Helmond Fire Brigade the Municipality Van den Broek Logistics and Imtech/Peek) are currently in talks to work out the final details of a commercial agreement.
This is a huge success for FREILOT and the CIP itself as the above statement by Mr Hartman makes clear.
This success has also led to interest from another seven cities/regions Bordeaux Copenhagen Eindhoven Newcastle Verona Vigo Thessaloniki etc. in implementing FREILOT services themselves. Discussions are still ongoing but look promising according to Mr Jeftic – and meet the CIP objective of extending the services beyond the original pilot cities.
FREILOT has shown the real need for and utility of the European Commission’s Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. And paved the way for the commercial deployment of cooperative mobility solutions in Europe.
by Eric Koenders (Peek/Imtech) and Henry Wasung
- Focus on local needs having in mind European implementation. In order to have a chance of expanding the service or continuing with it after the EU funding runs out you need to show it works – but not (just ) to the Commission project officer. It is the local stakeholders especially the local authorities who need convincing.
- Language. Having promotional material – the FREILOT video leaflets and posters and the website itself – in all the FREILOT languages plus English was very important. As a CIP pilot FREILOT went beyond the ITS community which might be expected to speak English fluently – freight delivery companies could in fact be very small even one person with a truck so communicating in the appropriate language was a necessity
- Local authorities. You need their support and advocacy
- City/local policy – what is it and how do you fit in?
- Local elections? Be prepared to explain everything from zero!
- Local laws! In Lyon FREILOT had to overcome an early challenge due to the incompatibility of one of the FREILOT service’s premises with French law (you cannot reserve a parking area for a particular class of vehicle)
- Good launch event per site. This will help all local stakeholders get on board and help in a myriad of ways
- Collaboration. Every pilot site will have to adapt to its own needs. Local collaboration must be very tight
- Embrace the unexpected. Fire brigade or bus service interested? This can only help! Why not contact the same groups in the other cities?
- Create ambassadors. Promote the idea.
- User expectations
- Manage the expectations of the test users. Meet them regularly; explain that the system is being tested and that you need their feedback. If the system seems not to work make sure you report on why and how it has been fixed. In Helmond on occasion it seemed the intersection control was not working leading to driver frustration and lack of trust in the system. The reason was that some traffic lights had been switch to local (non-network) setting so could not be influenced by FREILOT. But this was part of city policy at rush hours.
- Progress reports for users. Help them help you!
- Users are part of the team. They should be kept interested through progress report difficulties overcome…
- Separate display on the dashboard is only temporary! Its’ being tested. One day this extra screen will be integrated!
- Adapt to use – and find out why! If loading bays are not booked in advance you need to find out why. Because the system is not adequate? Or because the loading bays are only for FREILOT and there are not enough users so the truck can just turn up whenever they want (Bilbao example)?
- Information exchange
- Find a way to keep everyone involved and feeling part of the effort – even when they are not directly involved at that stage.
- R&D to pilot is a big jump. Do not underestimate the “tweaking” needed!
- Standards. Don’t wait! – plan for upgrades
- Cost and benefits
- Existing or off the shelf systems are cheaper. Remember the aim is post-pilot deployment – so it must be realistic
- Prove the benefits for different stakeholders
- Interim results are important – meetings with stakeholders could happen at any time!
- Installation of equipment – cheaper if part of planned maintenance/upgrades
- EU details
- Don’t be overambitious with news or newsletters – these should be used strategically pre/post major events and milestones
- Not every partner in a CIP has experience with EU projects! Make sure expectations are understood
Link to original Article
Original Publication Date: Sat 22 Sep 2012