The transformation of the European transport system through Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) towards efficient, safe, sustainable, intelligent, and resilient mobility is entering the next phase. With the brand new “Directive (EU) 2023/2661 amending Directive 2010/40/EU” of November 22, 2023, the EU Commission wants to breathe new life into the commitment to the transformation for a unified transport system in Europe, and give new technologies a powerful boost. In fact, intelligent transport systems and services are already on the rise in most EU member states, but many countries are doing their own thing when it comes to introduction and implementation. There is also still a lot of work to be done in terms of data availability, data access, and data exchange in the European mobility data space. Does this brand new directive mean that a golden era is dawning in European traffic management?
The design of modern mobility requires huge amounts of data
“The new directive represents a clear commitment to networked, cooperative, multimodal, and automated mobility,” says Thomas Jäger, Senior Vice President Global Connectivity Technologies at DEKRA. The gathering and processing of data plays a key role in implementation – huge amounts of data are required in mobility, transport, and logistics alone. In principal, each member state of the Union must set up its own databases that provide information on road and traffic conditions in the respective country. This concerns things like access conditions for tunnels and bridges, speed limits, and bans on overtaking for trucks. In addition, there is information on road infrastructure such as one way streets and delivery traffic regulations, information on road and lane closures, roadworks and traffic management measures, as well as free parking spaces for trucks on freeways. In the category of safety relevant events, dynamic data is required, for example about people and obstacles on the road, unsecured accident sites, and wrong-way drivers.
Availability and authenticity of data are decisive parameters
The requirements of the directive do not only concern the collection of data. There is also an obligation for uniform handling if a country provides the relevant data in digital form. In concrete terms, this means that data must be exchanged within the Union in machine readable formats. Data protection and the protection of privacy also have a high priority. “The question of who has access to which data under which conditions will be a decisive factor in shaping the mobility of the future,” says DEKRA expert Thomas Jäger. The relevance of data is best illustrated by looking at the function and operating mode of digital traffic systems intended to enable smooth traffic flows and sustainable transportation. When vehicles and infrastructure communicate with each other, the efficiency and safety of the systems depends on the information processing about the detected vehicles’ positions, speeds, and directions of travel. It is also logical that this dependency increases with a higher degree of automation. This is where data quality comes into play: “The systems can only work safely if the reliability, accuracy, and availability of the information is guaranteed. If the data lacks the necessary authenticity and integrity, this can have serious consequences for road safety,” explains Thomas Jäger.
The EU legislator has set four high priority areas for implementation
So where is the journey in terms of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) heading? It is crystal clear that the data and corresponding services cannot be made available overnight on the trans-European road network, on other highways and freeways, and in major cities. The directive provides for a pragmatic solution. Its specifications and standards are to be implemented as quickly as possible in four priority areas first. These are information and mobility, travel, transport, and traffic management, road safety, as well as networked and automated mobility. Now the ball is in the court of the European member states. By March 21, 2025, they must report to the EU Commission on how they intend to move forward with the directive’s implementation.