The ITS European Congress 2022 came to an end on Wednesday, 1 June, in Toulouse after a three-day-long event where participants experienced the future of smart and sustainable mobility in the high-level programme and the technical sessions, demonstrations and lively exhibition. An impressive list of high-level speakers discussed the five key themes highlighted throughout the Congress: Services for Citizens, Innovative solutions, Green and Sustainable Mobility, From Large-Scale Trials to Deployment and Cities as logistics hubs. During the three days, a team of rapporteurs, the eyes and ears of the Congress, worked hard to sketch the broader picture of what happened at the Congress sessions, demos, visits and exhibitions.
Topic 1: Services for Citizens
The first topic ‘Services for Citizens’ were the second busiest of the Congress. There were vigorous discussions about Mobility as a Service (MaaS), including long-term deployments, app design, integration with Traffic Management, and user acceptance. There were also a larger number of sessions than before on the inclusivity and gender considerations in ITS. Themes such as data sharing and exchange were prevalent throughout this topic area and several detailed discussions focused on the fine line between data sharing and privacy. However, several areas were less visible than expected. For example, the use of behavioural science to design MaaS schemes was absent apart from one paper.
Multimodal journey planning has been a Congress ‘regular’ and there were several mentions of the need to improve it such as lessons learned with different architectural approaches, data sharing protocols, variable definitions, and different use-cases.
The ITS European Congress also had interesting examples of how to improve traditional ITS services such as parking and real-time traffic information. Discussing the potential for MaaS to change travel behaviour prevailed, but with little evidence to suggest that this actually happens.
The use of 5G in services continues to evolve and papers and sessions explained new applications covering land, sea and air as well as cross-border issues. A key issue for many travellers is a new design of interoperable booking service to enable EV users to reserve charging based on their preferences and needs.
During the technical programme, the discussions marked focus on making services meet users’ needs while avoiding accidental exclusion or bias; and on making services work at a commercial level beyond trials. Several forward-looking sessions focused on integration from an institutional, technical and standards perspective.
Topic 2 Innovative solutions
‘Innovative Solutions’ was the second topic, and the most popular one dealing with automation (especially automated driving) as well as connectivity and data, continuing the trend of the last decade. As connectivity was mainly featured with a mix of technology innovation and practical trial, a variety of familiar use cases and some new ones such as railroad crossings, selective vehicle priority, and the management of major road works and events were revealed.
Automated mobility was clearly advancing. The shift from fundamental research towards evaluation, demonstrations, legal frameworks, type approval, and solving practical deployment issues arose during the discussions. At the same time, ideas of a totally autonomous vehicle seemed to have faded. Instead, sessions focused on highly automated vehicles working with equipped infrastructure. The sensing and detection solutions required by automated driving and advanced driver support systems were comprehensively covered along with new ways of utilising Artificial Intelligence.
Many papers and presentations in this topic also focused on collecting and using data from a wide range of sensors and devices. Accuracy of data, and harmonisation of data standards, were featured strongly and the so-called ‘digital twins’ were presented dealing with real-time road network activity, recommended heavy vehicle routes, and modelling the coexistence of connected and non-connected vehicles.
Cybersecurity issues received a lot of attention particularly resilience against ransomware attacks, and the need for secure protocols for connected and autonomous vehicles. Other topics addressed included assessing the value of ITS solutions, and the benefits of increasing safety and protecting vulnerable road users.
Most of the papers dealt with trials and users’ experience of well-known systems but some exciting new ideas were introduced, such as enhancing connected and automated driving through advanced applications of AI. New solutions developed initially for the road maintenance sector can monitor the condition of traffic signs, the appropriateness of road works signage, accumulation of water, snow or ice on a road, and other factors that affect driving safety.
The use of Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM) was discussed for strategic road networks, smart metropolitan intersections, national and sector borders, and new roles in global logistics.
Another exciting context, the virtual passengers for road cars was discussed, including the concept of synthetic data generation, specifically for driver and passenger monitoring purposes as a safe alternative to live data capture.
The topic of ‘Innovative Solutions’ is always going forward. Evidence suggests that the technology readiness levels continue to move towards demonstrations and deployment, and also in the society readiness levels. Increasing emphasis was given to verifying the safety, mobility, and environmental impacts of solutions, and validating the infrastructure requirements. At last, the concept of environmental traffic management is also moving forward with technology scenarios and the mapping of system-level actors, actions and outcomes related to all local climate actions.
Topic 3 Green and Sustainable Mobility
Unsurprising, given the surging interest and importance of climate change and net-zero agendas, the third topic ‘Green and Sustainable Mobility’ was the most forward-thinking. Electric Vehicles featured prominently with grumbles about technical and financial constraints with charging infrastructure continuing from Hamburg. Wireless charging for stationary vehicles was new with reports on the current state of developments. Denmark has created a handbook to help municipalities plan for charging infrastructure.
Mobility as a Service delivered a number of small innovations but no major breakthroughs. Motorway operators are exploring options to support MaaS such as EV charging, park & ride hubs, HOV lanes, and car-sharing. However, in a survey of willingness to give up a car for MaaS only 12% said yes. The survey results illustrate the factors making people most likely to consider it which in turn assist deciding how to encourage it.
Modal shift is a Congress favourite but shifting from road to waterways is a new and efficient way to decrease freight transport emissions. A single vessel is able to replace up to 200 HGVs. With remote control of lock gates, a 50% increase in waterway freight by 2030 is hoped for.
Emissions can be reduced by more efficient driving and a session discussed whether driver behaviour change should be mandated or encouraged through training. We await results from the MODALES project which uses a mobile app to encourage it using active recommendations on the trip and passive ones after. There were 3 sessions on future traffic management systems to support sustainable mobility. Several papers reported starting work on user perceptions and willingness to use new modes.
Topic 4 From Large-Scale Trials to Deployment: Sharing Lessons Learned
Most papers on this topic focused on identifying gaps in knowledge or the availability of digital tools. There was a movement from proof of technology studies to proof of benefits. International standards and cross-border collaboration were widely acknowledged as key to successful deployment.
Many papers addressed the importance of accurate and standardised data for the operation of services. Others argued about the technology required to ensure that C-ITS messages reach end-users – Road Side Unit solutions or existing cellular-based comms? What is the minimum network coverage for an adequate service? These issues are still prompting debate.
Given the importance of public perceptions of some new services, there was surprisingly little on this human factors topic. Work on the perceived safety of Autonomous Vehicles found a very large range of responses. It concluded that a positive perception of safety correlated with a positive attitude towards technology overall and vice versa. For AVs to deliver future benefits we need a better understanding of this, and how people’s attitudes might be influenced.
A feasibility study into drones for medical deliveries found that electric drones bring significant advantages in terms of emissions and time savings. However, range and payload limitations introduce additional challenges. Legacy regulations were identified as the main barrier to deployment.
Although this topic is moving forward with a strong focus on C-ITS numerous non-technical factors were identified that impact successful deployment – for example, enabling legislation needed, resolution of privacy concerns, and gaining trust and educating the public on the benefits of C-ITS.
Topic 5: Cities as Logistics Hubs
Given the difficulty of sharing city space between freight, public transport and private vehicles urban logistics was an important if numerically small topic. There was an exploration of how micro-mobility and sustainable solutions could be better integrated in the urban environment, to reduce the impact of freight moving around built-up areas and help balance innovation and reliability in logistics processes.
There were discussions on data sharing and how public and private entities can work to facilitate this, as well as emphasis on federated data networks for TEN-T freight corridors. Papers also covered the importance of data and data sharing in understanding freight flows and targeting areas for improvement and investment. Automation, and interoperable logistics platforms and routing applications also featured.
Safety in logistics transport was prominent. For example, Antwerp’s Safe Freight Planner designed specifically for freight transport inside the city centre focuses on routes that avoid conflict between heavy transport and vulnerable road users.
It was clear that intelligent and data-driven logistics is becoming a topic of increasing interest both within Europe and globally. However, it was equally apparent that some of the traditional problems and barriers to attaining efficient logistics operations survive – such as limited data sharing and operators reluctant to be more transparent about their processes and procedures.
ITS in 2022 is at an interesting place on the road to a new generation of mobility that is more accessible, equitable, affordable and resilient, but also contributing to fewer fatalities and lower emissions while promoting seamless deployment across national boundaries.
In other words, Smart and Sustainable Mobility for All. So far, the ITS Community has taken some big steps towards connecting the dots but the work does not finish here, there are some difficult problems still to be solved. Almost none are technology-related – they are about behaviour. Even though the younger generation adapts easily, the willingness to change needs to continue to look at the excessive organisational concerns regarding regulation, integration, competition, and collaboration.
We need to change the ways we deal with changes, remember: To go fast we go alone, to go far we go together, We go ERTICO.
We hope to see many of you again later this year at the ITS World Congress in Los Angeles and next year at the ITS European Congress in Lisbon.