The 2019 ITS Europe Congress that took place in Eindhoven from 3-6 June featured a number of Plenary and Executive sessions grouped into three streams focussing on Smart Cities, Automation and Mobility as a Service (MaaS).  The key discussion points and conclusions from the various sessions are summarised below:

Smart Cities Stream

The four discussions under this heading covered a very wide range.  There was a general agreement that a Smart City was one that used ITS technologies to connect city services, people, information and infrastructure to address urban challenges and work towards a sustainable greener city, a competitive and innovative economy, and an enhanced life quality.  Different cities had different priorities, but common goals were reducing congestion, improving air quality, and mobility for all especially people with limited access.

In his keynote address Herald Ruijters stressed the need for integrated solutions – large-scale deployment of ITS on its own would not generate a Smart City.  It was essential to include links to energy use, spatial planning, a range of community social services; and waste and water infrastructure; and linked to all of these elements was the need for user consultation and user involvement in the deployment plans.

In the past 10 or so years, smart city experiments and trials had moved towards deployments, and there was growing focus on the availability and use of data and the need to persuade people to change their behaviour for a wider social benefit.  The keys to behaviour change were more comprehensive information, and an underpinning business model that supported both the city managers and the end users.  Information relied on good data and it was clear that people were willing to share their data, including personal data, if in return they saw something of value to them.

There was not much published material on best practice regarding city business models.  It was important to encourage the development of open platforms to assist integration and one way forward was for governments to invest in infrastructure and open interfaces so that companies could develop interoperable services, not just within cities, but across national boundaries and between countries.  We have all the technologies and elements for a smart city; the difficulty is integrating the policy goals of multimodality and sustainability and deciding on the role of the car.

For many cities the governance structure needs to change as it reflects the earlier separation of land use from transport service provision, energy use and the whole social services dimension.  A major message from the discussions was the need for transparent collaboration and an organised exchange of data.

It was emphasised that ITS products deployed in cities are constantly evolving and a major development is the third dimension: aerial services based on drones.  This sector is not yet mature enough and there are many unresolved questions regarding safety, public acceptance, whether the role should be for passengers or freight, security and privacy –points that all emphasise the need for a wider regulatory approach with integrated user services in mind.

Automation Stream

This stream aimed to look at three broad areas and do a stock-take of where work on connected and automated vehicles has got to; a review of the likely impact on safety; and a look at plans for further work and preparation for deployment.  The stream received a vigorous launch with a keynote address by Jean Francois Aguinaga who noted that the Brainport demonstrations showed an evolution from protected test locations to mixed traffic environments and were a sign of progress since the last ITS Congress.  However there were still roadblocks – technical, social and regulatory.  He reviewed the European Commission’s (EC’s) strategy, which proposes action to tackle issues around legal frameworks, social impact and supporting competition.  Two important initiatives were The Single Platform for open road testing and pre-deployment of cooperative, connected, automated and autonomous mobility; and the Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda (STRIA), which presents the short/medium/long-term roadmaps and cross-cutting actions.  He reminded that automation in itself is not a goal but rather an instrument to reach policy goals to make vehicles safer, greener and more efficient.

In the stream discussions, all speakers agreed that automated driving had advanced a lot in the last 10-20 years but the “Holy Grail” of fully autonomous driving was still a big leap to take.  Even if the technology was ready, as some believed, there were barriers as regulation had to be aligned for mixed driving situations and sensor technology, while good was not yet as good as human perception.  Citizen engagement and trust in the technology were also a factor in determining the speed of implementation.  Past tests and deployments had shown that implementation takes time and one must look to all the benefits that each incremental step brings, especially in the area of safety and environmental aspects.

The road safety discussions focused on the issue of whether fully automated driving would deliver zero fatalities and it was agreed that much work remained to be done, not only technological, but also on regulation and user acceptance.  More investment in infrastructure improvement was needed.  Digital infrastructure elements, such as digital maps with their ability to look beyond sensors and work in all weather conditions, played an important role in improving road safety.  Dynamic maps using a blend of sensor fusion and map data increased driver confidence levels, but there needed to be standardisation and international rollout.

Some doubt was expressed as to whether the current systems were safe enough to be acceptable to end users –would they perform as well as the best drivers?  It was argued that there was no direct correlation between automation levels and safety; Level 4 was sufficient and there was little need for the expense of L5.  The panel was clear that much had been achieved towards road safety and that the focus should be on the thousands of lives potentially saved rather, than the handful of accidents that occurred and were reported on widely by the media.

There were important lessons to be learned from the introduction of automation in aviation and the retention of two pilots in the cockpit.  There was also a call for testing to be intensified in real conditions, and for the public to be made aware that despite the accidents, trials were a necessary step for advancement. Telling the story step-by-step would allow the possibility to focus on the progress made and the success already achieved. Transparency, rather than overreliance on technology, is key to user acceptance.

Regarding the ways forward, panellists tended to agree that we had perhaps been too ambitious in the past when talking about the timeline for achieving autonomous driving, and it seemed unlikely that Level 5 autonomous driving would become a reality by 2021, if ever.  The hype around self-driving cars was more a marketing strategy rather than a technical aspiration. Advanced automation was expected to come first on highways and in parking situations as there were fewer vulnerable road users involved.  But even here, better connectivity was needed to allow robust operation of digital and road infrastructure for automation through real time data exchange. The importance of the digital provision of information was stressed.

Cross-border testing posed a challenge because of differing licensing and registration procedures in different countries.  Legislation was also needed to facilitate registration of test vehicles beyond test roads.  There was a call for a new type of regulatory framework that matched type approval with driving licence types: a vehicle driving licence. The security aspect of Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM) was emphasised as something that must not be overlooked at any level of automation, because it was closely tied to safety. On this issue, it was important to work on policy requirements along with the different stakeholders as each new actor in the CCAM field brought new dangers of hacking.

The panel reflected that automation was not an end in itself but rather a means to road safety.  However it was vital to consider the overall picture and not focus exclusively on safety.  Improvements in safety for the individual drivers had to be balanced against the wider impact on the road network.  For example evidence suggested users of adaptive cruise control maintained longer inter-vehicle distances – so the gains for an individual were offset by increased congestion.

It was agreed that there needed to be greater connection between the numerous tests under way in Europe so that governance, regulatory approaches and agreements could be shared. The Commission’s Single Platform for Open Road Testing was mentioned as a way to benefit sharing experience and accelerating automated driving.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) Stream

This stream began with a joint keynote address by Christof Schminke and Henrik Haenecke to emphasise the importance of partnership and collaboration.  All keynote speakers and the subsequent panel discussions focused on the potential for new mobility services, such as MaaS, to deliver flexible, affordable and sustainable mobility for all; but also emphasised the difficulties in moving from today’s governance regime with its established business models to a more open, less regulated and interoperable environment.

There were some simple messages – the need to put the focus on the mobility of individuals rather than the physical movement and ownership of the transport assets; the need to deploy solutions that improved cities’ air quality; and the widespread agreement that travellers need to be persuaded to make changes to their behaviour.  “Persuaded” was the key approach: the way forward will not be banning some processes or forcing adoption of others but making solutions attractive and making sure that travellers have full information on the new options and are aware of the true costs of the traditional approaches.  There was also the need for service providers do more to consult users – the new mobility models rely heavily on using technology and personal devices, but there are social concerns about managing technology ranging from social exclusion, to privacy and data protection.

The need for better collaboration and working partnerships was often mentioned.  The public sector, private sector and end-users have to work together to facilitate the introduction of new services and changes to people’s mobility habits.  Increased user awareness and a feeling of ease with the new technologies – and how best to use them – were part of the solution.  It was most unlikely that there would be a “Killer app” as opposed to a number of competing products with different special aspects.  Success in the market would come from integration of a wide range of data to drive payment and information options that were interoperable.  Small schemes in a single town were not the way forward – users would want the equivalent of mobile phone roaming across national and international borders.  To bring all data together to deliver this was a huge challenge that the public and private sector had to face together not separately

The availability of technology was not the main concern; it was getting suppliers, regulators, customers and users together to work as a partnership rather than trying to look at problems one by one and on their own.