ERTICO’s experts Giacomo Somma and Nikolaos Tsampieris discuss the future of connected transport, and outline the exciting new technology emerging in the industry, in a recently published interview.

Giacomo Somma tackles the controversial question of where transport authorities should be focusing their investment to improve transport network connectivity: ‘We have been living in the so-called information society for more than a decade now, with it affecting every aspect of our life. As we enter a new digital era where personal data, non-personal or industrial data, and public data (or mixed datasets) is creating a data-agile economy, smart mobility is key. It is in this area of our lives that this transformation will be evident and that we need to anticipate and manage change.’

‘Public authorities at national, regional and urban level (each one with its own specific mission and role, and also all together in a coordinated way) can play a central role, ranging from regulatory and policy actions, to mobility planning, and actual deployment of innovative solutions. As an important enabler, connectivity plays a crucial role in improving mobility in terms of safety, emissions, social inclusion, and liveability.’

Giacomo continues ‘The ITS Directive (2010/40/EU) sets the basis for the deployment of EU-wide federated, interoperable national access points (NAPs). The deployment of NAPs expanding and integrating connectivity capabilities and data sources to the comprehensive transport network (highways, national and urban roads) and mobility actors (public, commercial, private) is where public authorities can primarily plan their investment. This will entail the integration of cooperative intelligent transport systems and services with interactive traffic management, and the realisation of a truly multimodal transport system – encompassing road, rail, water and air transport – for people and goods.’

‘Such investment will create the technology backbone to enable a new, user-centric mobility paradigm that is service-based rather than ownership-based, which will also involve autonomous vehicles. On the level of interconnectivity and interdependence, national networks can no longer be conceived independently from each other in a fragmented way. The EU dimension is critical to achieving societal sustainable development goals and ensuring harmonisation and synchronisation at European level in terms of mobility systems, with a focus on services’ interoperability and continuity. This will allow additional applications in cities that tailor to local needs and policies, ‘ concludes ERTICO expert Somma.

How important is it to maintain the balance between advancing digital and physical infrastructure? Nikolaos Tsampieris answers: ‘The advancement of road infrastructure in both its physical and digital manifestations will play a critical role in the deployment of autonomous vehicles (AV) and towards a fully-automated transport system in the future, where they will travel within intelligent, connected and automated road infrastructure.’

‘Digital infrastructure, enabled by technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, and aided by wireless communications (vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, vehicle-to-everything), positively affects safety, and accommodates the coexistence of conventional and automated vehicles during the transition period, allowing for the incremental introduction of full vehicle automation. In addition, as the penetration of vehicles with higher automation levels (SAE) gradually increases, road infrastructure will also gradually change.’

‘Since digital infrastructure involves the digital representation of the road environment, it follows that any adaptations in the digital domain should also be reflected on its physical counterpart – the physical infrastructure. The corresponding upgrades in the physical domain highlight this duality and the necessity for a balanced approach, which becomes even more significant in the case of the deployment of connected autonomous vehicles with higher levels of automation.’

Nikolaos Tsampieris also comments on the role that digital openness and open data have to play in developing digital infrastructure.  ‘Data, as it is continuously being generated, transmitted, stored and processed, permeates all different levels of the digital infrastructure, including the core infrastructure (connectivity), data infrastructure (data centres and cloud infrastructure), digital platforms, as well as digital devices and applications.’

‘This all-pervasive data is core to new digital technologies, including advanced analytics, AI, virtual/augmented reality, machine learning, deep learning and blockchain. All of these have the potential to underpin the transformative change from the analogue world to a new digital reality in the transport sector. As an increasingly critical resource, data is ‘fuelling’ CAVs, which are prime examples associated with the production of big data for the transport sector. Turned into open data, this could bring multitudinous benefits for transport authorities and cities. Effectively utilising readily available open data can further promote the seamless integration of all transport modes, subsequently increasing the capacity, enhancing the quality, and potentially improving the environmental footprint of transport,’ he states.

The full interview published in the magazine Intelligent Transport can be read here.