Europe to speed up market launch of self-drive vehicles
European members will work closely with one another to ensure the smooth introduction of self-driving vehicles. Europe’s united ambition is to be ready for the roll out of autonomous vehicles that can communicate both with each other, and with the infrastructure, by 2019. Member States will act together to remove restrictions to self-driving vehicles. National traffic and transport legislation is to be aligned, and a coordinated use of digital communication is coming so that cars across Europe can “talk” effectively to each other and to the road infrastructure. In addition, cross-border tests are to be installed in order to put the right steps in place to support developments based on practical experience.
With the Declaration of Amsterdam, European Transport Ministers pledged their support in Amsterdam for enabling all forms of autonomous vehicles. They are joining forces with both the European car industry and the ICT industry that will supply it, to be ready for self-driving vehicles in three years’ time. A European car manufacturing representative also took part in the meeting in Amsterdam.
Minister Schultz van Haegen said: “Today, for the first time in Europe, we have spoken on a political level about self-driving vehicles and the measures required for their smooth introduction into Europe. We want set a pace, as we see that many benefits can be achieved for mobility. With self-driving vehicles, our transport will become safer, more sustainable, and more efficient. In aligning regulations and car systems, we will avoid self-driving cars and trucks needing a new update at every border.”
EU Commissioner Bulc stated: “Through connected and automated vehicles, transport will become safer and more efficient, with more opportunities for road users. This offers great opportunities for European industry. The European Commission will continue to work closely with industry and the Member States to create the necessary conditions, so that connected vehicles will already be able to use European roads by 2019. Building on the momentum generated by the Declaration of Amsterdam, we will publish a master plan for cooperative intelligent transport systems later this year. We are hereby taking an important step towards ensuring continuity of service from day one.”
“Connected and automated vehicles promise increased sustainability and efficiency in road transport in the coming decades”, said Erik Jonnaert. Jonnaert represents ACEA, the European umbrella organization for 15 European-based manufacturers of passenger cars, vans, trucks and buses. “However”, he continued, “even though these developments will rapidly revolutionize our industry, there are still many challenges in our way.”
The industry therefore welcomes the Declaration of Amsterdam. “We see this as a milestone. It promotes much needed cooperation between car manufacturers, national authorities and the EU institutions, “concluded Jonnaert.
Transport ministers’ meeting
At the transport ministers’ meeting at the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, it was pointed out that self-driving transport offers many advantages. Autonomous driving is expected to be safer. Tens of thousands of people are involved in traffic accidents on European roads every year, and ninety percent of car accidents are caused by human error. Self-driving vehicles consume less fuel, which is not only good for the environment but also for the wallet. Additionally, self-driving vehicles ensure better traffic flow on the road, and enable older people to stay mobile for longer.
The ministers present agreed on the need for a proper joint agenda to enable autonomous transportation. European countries currently have differences in approach, infrastructure and traffic regulations. Good cooperation is essential to make sure that autonomous vehicles can drive seamlessly all over European roads, which is difficult if there are different regulations and systems everywhere.
The transport ministers have agreed that the currently differing traffic regulations within Europe will be looked into, that investment in digital communication and its infrastructure will be coordinated, and that cross-border testing will be made easier. In addition, the Member States will tackle issues surrounding cyber security, privacy, and data protection.
Highly automated vehicles
After the meeting on Thursday, the European transport ministers present were able to experience self-driving vehicles themselves. They were transported through Amsterdam in autonomous and highly automated vehicles which were granted special permission to travel on public roads for this occasion. Around 20 vehicles from Volvo, BMW, Daimler, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Tesla, Renault, Peugeot / Citroen (PSA), research Vedecom (FR) and TNO / Dutch Automated Vehicle Initiative (DAVI) were used.
The tests on public roads take an approach whereby solutions are found for problems that arise based on practical experience. One example of this was the cross bordering Truck Platoon Challenge which recently took place. In the first week of April, 6 platoons of trucks, from Sweden, Germany and Belgium, travelled on highways to Rotterdam.