Opening this year’s Virtual ITS European Congress with the theme The Mobility R-evolution ERTICO Chairman Dr Angelos Amditis said ‘Every crisis creates opportunity. And our focus should be there – on the opportunities’. Despite the pandemic, ERTICO in its role as a public-private partnership was determined that the innovation and multi-stakeholder collaboration at the very heart of its network of Partners, continued with this ITS Congress, the very first held on-line. From 9-10 November 2020 more than 600 participants and 100 speakers from ERTICO’s 120 Partners and the ITS community came together, networked and shared their experience in 20 sessions including  four high-level sessions on new, resilience, green and visionary and in a virtual exhibition with Partner presence avatars.

Decision makers, disrupters and high profile companies from a range of industries including the European Commission, Deutsche Telekom, SWARCO AG, Skedgo, Uber, Volkswagen, PTV group, IKEA, Dynniq, Pionira, AKKA Tech, Indra as well as cities of Glasgow, Toulouse, Dublin and Hamburg spoke at the Congress on key issues and game-changers for ITS in adapting to the crisis, post-crisis and for the future.  As a representative of one of the ERTICO Partners observed, ‘it was good to have the Congress and exhibition feeling again in the form of this well-working virtual format with main hall, session forums, exhibition ground and networking area.’

Jacob Bangsgaard, ERTICO CEO said ‘Just as ERTICO has taken its European Congress on-line we as mobility pioneers need to be ready and open to change. Digitalisation and smarter mobility solutions have clearly proven to be the answer to issues this pandemic has unveiled. ERTICO’s vision for safer, smarter and cleaner mobility has becomes more imperative than ever but the way to get there will have to be adapted. It is fundamental that we remain focused. The Virtual ITS Congress represents a vital opportunity for us to stay connected and learn from each other.’

As part of the Virtual ITS European Congress, a number of key survey questions were delivered to the ITS Community on issues at the heart of the ITS and the answers were very revealing.

The community was asked if resilience was achievable or whether that as a society we should accept that it is an unrealistic ambition. A transport system should have the flexibility to be able to handle change, to be able to foresee and accommodate disruption; otherwise the running of transport services and operations may be threatened. At the Congress for example, Deutsche Telecom pointed out that their systems can receive up 42 million hackers daily. Traffic management, data exchange and connectivity and the digitalization of freight are all areas where systems need to enhance their strength and adaptability. Over 75% of those questioned were undaunted and believed that resilience was possible and over 90% said that it should be both the responsibility of the private and public sector to ensure this resilience and unsurprisingly, 100% of those questioned said health crises should be considered when planning for mobility resilience.

Disruption is also a key word in today’s transport and has brought new ways of re-thinking on the evolution of mobility but there are still challenges, such as national legislation and the fragmentation of modes within mobility systems. In the survey, 85% of the ITS community said that legislation should allow for innovative disruption in mobility. Over the past few years, seamless mobility, holistic mobility management and MaaS schemes have been growing in significance. Many experts in the field such as Skedgo, speaking at the Virtual ITS Congress, are seeking new ways to satisfy users’ demands for ‘connected’ and ‘smart’ modes and insist that more personalised solutions are the way forward. The Hanseatic city of Hamburg for example has set an integrated mobility strategy: by 2030 traditional public transport such as urban rail, bus and ferry will all be integrated into on-demand services.

The climate emergency is, together with COVID-19, the most talked about challenge in today’s society. The European Union’s highly ambitious plan, the European Green Deal, sets an ambition for the transport sector of reducing its CO2 emissions by 90% by 2050 and 55% by 2030, which presents the transport community with one of the most formidable tasks it has ever had to deliver, but at the same time with an opportunity to re-think today’s mobility landscape. At the Virtual ITS European Congress, Matthew Baldwin Deputy Director General of DG MOVE said ‘The European Green Deal has to be a mobility strategy for the future and not a choice. The European Commission’s role is to provide clear, reliable, measurable and trusted targets, but it is up to the Member States to deliver.’

Many companies are incorporating these ambitions in their own targets. Uber has made a commitment to ensure 50% of their passenger cars are electric vehicles. IKEA aims at 100% electric deliveries by 2025 and wants to ensure by 2030 that 100,000 co-workers are reducing their mobility footprint by 50% in getting to their workplace. Volkswagen plans to sell its last cars with combustion engines petrol and diesel by 2040, phasing out production by 2026. Over 70% included in our survey believed that the European Commission’s targets were achievable, but 69% of those asked disagreed that only focusing on the electrification of transport modes, was the way forward.

Mobility evolves, setting ambitious, yet still achievable targets is vital to the success of the entire mobility system. Setting a vision that is shared and that insists all stakeholders cooperate and deliver together ensures that all mobility players are aligned. Enhanced and new connectivity technologies are already expected to satisfy user demand for efficient and smart mobility. Connected Cooperative Automated Mobility (CCAM) is being supported by both private and the public mobility stakeholders as the result of a fourth industrial revolution. As AKKA TECH said ‘Connected mobility is very important. We need to move forward to business models based on big data and AI with a collaborative approach together with the research and engineering sector’.

Many of the cities present at the Virtual ITS European Congress noted the huge importance and growth of cycling in their cities since the pandemic.  ‘This pandemic is a huge catalyst in terms of how we think of sustainable modes of transport. We are seeing massive investments in terms of cycling infrastructure in a lot of cities, particularly across Europe,’ said Dublin City Council. So together can we make mobility greener without sacrificing its efficiency? 90% of the ITS community in the survey said ‘yes’.

There was one question that divided participants in the survey: whether the digitalisation of mobility is an evolution or a revolution? What is clear is that the very first Virtual ITS European Congress R-evolution achieved its aim of bringing the ITS community together and for sharing innovative ideas. As it drew to a close, a future full of hope and new horizons was on display.