The Director of Strategy & Innovation at ERTICO-ITS Europe, Vladimir (Vlad) Vorotović oversees the organisation’s portfolio of activities, focusing on the dynamic intersection of technology, sustainability and future mobility. With a unique journey starting in Belgrade to influential roles in the UK’s transport consultancy and public sector scene, Vlad’s commitment to inclusive and sustainable urban development is evident in his role at ERTICO. In this exclusive interview series ‘Meet the Expert’, Vlad sheds light on his passion for sustainable and inclusive urban mobility and transformative initiatives like the ERTICO City Moonshot. He also offers a glimpse into a future where smart mobility innovation meets real-life deployments, aligning more seamlessly with the principles of safety, sustainability and efficiency.

Tell us about your journey with ERTICO as the Director of Strategy & Innovation?

My journey to ERTICO has been rooted in my great interest & passion in transport planning and traffic management in urban context, particularly within cities and working with, and for them. Originating from Belgrade, where I got my transport planning & engineering degree, and then worked for the city itself as an engineer, my career took me to the UK, where firstly I was a consultant, and subsequently an officer for Transport for London (TfL). During my time at TfL, I was an architect of the operational modelling framework for London, which integrated elements from the mathematical simulation models with the latest trends from the gaming industry, such are virtual and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR), to test and plan the most innovative transport solutions over 11 years I was there, including London Olympics, Cycle Superhighways or the next generation interactive traffic management for the UK’s capital. The work my team and I produced was shown on the BBC and ITV news in the primetime slots during that time. On the other hand, I also took pride in participating in the Women in Transport initiative at TfL, aimed at fostering gender-balanced representation and encouraging women’s contributions in the field. My educational background was complemented by an MBA degree, kindly sponsored by TfL, equipping me for future managerial roles.

The path to ERTICO unfolded through my involvement with the MaaS Alliance, dating back to the 2015 Bordeaux ITS World Congress. Joining ERTICO four years ago, initially as a Senior Manager and progressing to the role of Director more than two years ago, I now oversee our portfolio of activities in collaboration with partners. This entails not only aligning with our established focus areas but also identifying and capitalising on opportunities to bridge gaps between them. My journey reflects a dedication to shaping urban mobility and addressing challenges through innovative and inclusive strategies.

Can you share an example of a particularly successful project or innovation platform initiative you’ve led or been more actively involved in at ERTICO?

What truly appealed to me about ERTICO was its distinct status as an independent organisation, bringing together both public and private actors with a steadfast focus on innovation. ERTICO’s commitment to impartiality, and striving to offer optimal solutions, resonated with my aspirations, particularly in enhancing the well-being of cities – where most of us reside and work. This essence is what renders ERTICO genuinely unique.

Upon joining, one of the most compelling projects that captured my attention was the ERTICO City Moonshot initiative. It had just commenced when I arrived and drawing on my expertise and (city) connections from previous roles, we charted the course to engage and gain a deeper understanding of the needs of cities. Addressing this challenge was important to me, and it aligns perfectly with ERTICO’s motto of ‘connecting the dots’ and fostering collaboration among people, communities, and stakeholders.

Since its inception, the City Moonshot has successfully conducted more than 200 interviews with cities and regions worldwide, making it one of our most impactful endeavours to date. This initiative has garnered significant recognition, especially when the Commission sought insights into the results achieved by cities. Subsequently, other organisations have followed suit, but City Moonshot remains distinctive for its originality, especially in consultancy with the ERTICO Partnership, primarily engaging with Public Authorities. The success of City Moonshot embodies ERTICO’s commitment to innovation and collaboration in crafting solutions that positively impact urban living but also lies in the fact we have the great leadership of the initiative by my colleague, Lidia Buenavida Peña, Manager, Innovation & Deployment.

Elaborate more on your specific focus on urban mobility. What do you see as the most significant challenges and opportunities in the field of urban mobility?

My specific focus on urban mobility is driven by a longstanding passion for working with and for cities. Recognising a crucial gap, I have aimed to create a comprehensive roadmap that directly engages with cities, including initiatives that integrate cities into our collective efforts and foster collaboration to make mobility safer, more efficient and more sustainable.

Envisioning the future of urban mobility, I see a trajectory towards sustainability, efficiency, and intelligence, aligning seamlessly with our mission at ERTICO. As we embark on this journey, challenges loom on both societal and technological fronts, where resources, both financial and human, are limited. Navigating these constraints requires leveraging technology and innovation to bridge gaps. I am very proud of the fact we now have a very rich portfolio of projects in the urban mobility focus area, from SHOW, SOLUTIONSPlus, SUM, REALLOCATE to recently launched metaCCAZE, led by our expert team, with Dr Tamara Djukic, Senior Manager, Innovation & Deployment, as the project coordinator, to name just a few key activities.

Furthermore, in my role as an expert adviser at the European Commission’s EGUM (Expert Group on Urban Mobility), representing ERTICO in the Urban Space and the Future of Urban Mobility subgroup, I am co-leading the discussions on shaping the future of urban mobility in Europe. This collaborative effort underscores the significance of foresight and strategic planning, but also the role of ITS, data and technological trends at the service of people, to overcome challenges and capitalise on opportunities, ultimately steering us towards a future of enhanced urban mobility.

What are some emerging trends, solutions, or technologies in the field that you find particularly exciting or promising this year for ERTICO and its Partnership?

One of the most significant trends this year (and perhaps the decade) is the pervasive influence of digitalisation, representing both a challenge and an opportunity. The shift towards a digital world has become a transformative force in human behaviour, impacting the way we live and work. This evolution is not just about having devices and communication tools, it has fundamentally changed the way we move, and our goods are transported/delivered. As the world becomes increasingly digital, the effects are felt in the realm of transport, where the ability to work remotely has become a reality, and e-commerce is prevailing in traditional high-street retail.

In pursuit of creating more humane cities, an initiative gaining momentum is challenging the conventional notion of metal boxes moving around with just one person taking the scarce space urban conurbations can offer, to a more equitable solution – the shared mobility revolution. The goal is to redirect people from relying solely on cars, considering their impact, while still ensuring the availability of diverse transportation choices that fulfil the needs of individuals.

Another promising trend is the evolution of the mobility ecosystem, undergoing transformative changes. The drones and Innovative Aerial Services have emerged as a focal point within this system, presenting potentially an exciting avenue for the safe and sustainable transfer of goods, and perhaps even people in not too distant future. Additionally, the concepts of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and multi-modality continue to shape the landscape, although there are still aspects within this circle that require further development.

Despite these exciting prospects, challenges persist, notably in the areas of safety, data protection, and invasion of privacy. Striking a delicate balance between deriving benefits from data utilisation and protecting individual privacy poses a complex challenge. Cities, too, grapple with this dilemma – desiring choices, reduced congestion, and improved efficiency, yet hindered by limitations in data usage. Navigating these challenges while embracing emerging trends is a key focus for ERTICO and its partnership in the ongoing year.

What in your opinion are some of the buzzwords we can expect to hear in 2024 regarding mobility?

In my view, there may not be new buzzwords this coming year (as I believe we heard them all by now: robots, sensors, AI, 6G, etc.), but the emphasis should be on delivering what truly matters – safe, sustainable, and efficient mobility for everyone. ERTICO, in collaboration with its partners, is actively thinking about transitioning from mere innovation to the delivery of deployment, striving to bring tangible impact to both the physical and digital realms. This shift reflects a future-oriented focus for ERTICO which is reflected in this strategic year for our partnership. One of the ongoing dialogues in the year of strategy 2024 will be the shift towards an update of ERTICO’s broader vision and mission, underscoring a more holistic approach. We will pay particular attention to some of the transversal principles – Sustainability, Connectivity, Data, and Safety – not only to address current trends, challenges, and opportunities but also to signify ERTICO’s commitment to a comprehensive strategy. Safety, a perpetual priority, remains essential, mirroring the overarching goal of preserving human lives – a goal that remains timeless and aspirational.

I am looking forward to delivering on these key elements this year, benefitting end-users, and ultimately creating a future where mobility aligns seamlessly with the principles of safety, sustainability, and efficiency. Very importantly, I am also looking forward to working with the great team of Innovation & Deployment I have the pleasure to lead, and the wider ERTICO team, always serving the needs of our partners and the wider ITS community.