It’s time for ITS to play its role. That’s official.

Just before Christmas, when most of the press and the rest of the world had their minds on other things, the European Commission released a momentous set of documents detailing their strategy for Intelligent Transport Systems.  It’s a great shame that it got ignored, as it provides the clarion call that the industry so desperately needs.


The Action Plan identifies the shortcomings of previous initiatives, where ITS has been deployed in a fragmented way, leading to a patchwork of  solutions with no cohesion or integrity.  Its intent is to put in place a framework that will lead to Europe wide systems, using legislation if necessary to speed up the process.


Six Key areas are highlighted:


  • Optimal use of road, traffic and travel data

This includes a definition of a Europe wide real-time traffic and travel information service with a target date of 2010 alongside a definition of the specification for free provision of universal traffic information services by 2012.


  • Continuity of Traffic and Freight Management ITS

Introducing the concept of “Intelligent Cargo” and implementing interoperable road toll systems between 2010 and 2014.


  • Road Safety and Security

Promoting the deployment and retrofitting of advanced driver assistance systems and supporting eCall introduction from 2009 – 2014.


  • Integrating the vehicle into the ITS infrastructure

Particularly close to my heart, this envisages the adoption of an open in-vehicle platform architecture by 2011, with mandates to develop harmonised European Standards for ITS implementation through 2009-2014.


  • Data Security, Protection and Liability

Recognising the importance of security in ITS data and assessing and addressing the issues, and finally


  • European ITS Cooperation and Coordination

Developing guidelines for funding and generating a specific ITS collaboration platform by 2010.


It’s not often I’m moved to reproduce an excerpt from an EC report verbatim, but the introduction from the Action Plan says it all.  So here it is.  If it delivers, then I think we will look back at this as the moment that ITS changed from being a fragmented group of minor players to an integrated part of a multi-modal European transport system.  It’s an excellent start to 2009.

The full reports are available for download from the European Commission’s Transport website.




The renewed Lisbon agenda on growth and jobs aims at delivering stronger, lasting growth and creating more and better jobs. Furthermore, the mid-term review of the 2001 White Paper stresses the key role of innovation in ensuring sustainable, efficient and competitive mobility in Europe.


Against this background several major challenges have to be overcome for Europe’s transport system to play its full role in satisfying the mobility needs of the European economy and society:


  • Road traffic congestion is estimated to affect 10% of the road network, and yearly costs amount to 0.9-1.5 % of the EU GDP.


  • Road transport accounts for 72 % of all transport-related CO2 emissions, which increased by 32 % (1990-2005). 


  • Whilst road fatalities are in regression (-24 % since 2000 in EU27) their number (42 953 fatalities in 2006) is still 6 000 above the intended target of a 50 % reduction in fatalities in the period 2001-2010.


These challenges are even more pressing with forecasted growth rates of 50 % for freight transport and 35 % for passenger transport in the period from 2000 to 2020.  The main policy objectives arising from these challenges are for transport and travel to become:


  • cleaner,
  • more efficient, including energy efficient,
  • safer and more secure.

It is however clear, that conventional approaches such as the development of new infrastructure, will not give the necessary results on the timescales required by the magnitude of these challenges. Innovative solutions are clearly needed if we are to achieve the rapid progress demanded by the urgency of the problems at hand. It is high time for Intelligent Transport Systems to play their due role in enabling tangible results to emerge.