Smart and safe mobility: The time to come together and advance innovative data-based technologies is now – Newsletter Editorial April 2021

The spotlight in Brussels is on digital topics this week, with a proposal for regulating the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the EU and a three-day conference on connected and automated driving, highlighting the contribution of data-based technology solutions to making mobility smart, safe and sustainable.

CLEPA welcomes the Commission’s initiative on AI regulation as an important step towards legal certainty for market participants and bolstering consumer confidence in artificial intelligence. AI will be a game-changer in reducing accidents on the road, and automotive suppliers are key players in making the ‘Vision Zero‘ a reality, one of the objectives of the Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy as well as the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.

The use of AI is becoming more prevalent every day in automotive, particularly in applications providing safety solutions. Features such as emergency braking or lane-keeping systems frequently rely on machine learning AI to recognise lane markings, obstacles, pedestrians, or other vehicles. The amount of software lines in a car far exceeds those in aeroplanes. And with a 30% share today, the value of electronic components in a vehicle is rapidly on the rise.

Within 5 years, most active safety systems in new cars will be—at least partially—AI-based and by 2030 all new vehicles will have AI technology. Further in the future, fully autonomous vehicles will make extensive use of AI. An appropriate legislative framework can boost the development and uptake of AI, provided that requirements remain proportionate to the possible risks. The importance of not hindering innovation unnecessarily cannot be stressed enough.

AI and other data-driven mobility and transport solutions were at the heart of the discussions held this week during the EUCAD2021 conference, the third of its kind since 2018, which focused entirely on how to accelerate Cooperative Connected Automated Mobility (CCAM) in Europe.

Efforts to boost innovation are at the centre of industrial and policy developments. The conference’s marked the birth of the new EU CCAM Partnership, bringing together over 140 private and public partners, including CLEPA and several of its member companies. Over the next few years, EU CCAM will direct €500 million of funding from the Horizon Europe R&I framework programme into pre-competitive research and innovation projects as well as pilot and testing projects.

The CCAM Partnership is an important milestone on the road to safe, sustainable, smart and inclusive mobility. Society needs to advance rapidly towards a new horizon, where vehicles are equipped with advanced technologies communicating with each other while perceiving their environment, road infrastructure, and other road users. The transfer of information and the access to data will be key for vehicle automation in cooperation with other road users, taking the management of traffic and mobility to the ultimate level. Taking an integrated, systemic approach is the only way to dramatically improve road safety and inclusiveness of road transportation.


Is society ready for the automation of transport?


A further key hurdle that needs to be navigated is to do with mindsets. Public and private partners must work to enable confidence in technology. The understanding and acceptance of future driverless cars and trucks needs to be fostered. Is society truly ready for automation? This is a question that the CCAM Partnership must face head-on.

From the perspective of automotive suppliers, important strides have already been made in developing key vehicle technologies.  Further progress is still required to improve precision and robustness, focusing particularly on real-time driving decision-making which must be performed in an entirely safe and unambiguous way.

With the CCAM Partnership, the target is to achieve ‘level 4’ automation: a situation wherein a vehicle can drive itself without human intervention in a wide range of pre-defined, set situations, referred to as the ‘operational design domain’. Examples include highly automated highway-driving applications, where the driver would be free to do other things during the journey as the vehicle controls itself, and automated parking or ‘valet parking’ including to and from a parking space.


‘Sense, think, act’ – the focus of the automotive supply community


The focus of the automotive supply community is on so-called ‘sense, think, act’ technologies and solutions. ‘Sense’ refers to the scanning of the driving environment, ‘think’ regards interpreting the data and making decisions, and ‘act’ is about manoeuvring the vehicle on those basis’. Important targets for innovation include guaranteeing safety and reliability, and further improvement of the human-machine interface.

The CCAM Partnership has been conceived to align R&I efforts between all involved stakeholders. Fragmentation is a real risk since so many different actors must work together: member state governments, member state road authorities and operators, providers of digital and physical infrastructure, cities, and of course also industry, research institutes, and service providers.

CLEPA sees alignment as crucial to avoid fragmentation and, hence, accelerate the implementation of innovative CCAM technologies and services across Europe. Now is the time that we must come together: we all have common issues to solve, and we are still in the pre-competitive phase.

This leads to another important dimension of the CCAM Partnership: European leadership. By working together, we need to ensure the future within an increasingly competitive global market.  Other regions around the world are certainly not standing still. Particularly in Asia and North America, where huge strides are being taken.


Europe needs to move rapidly to remain at the forefront


Europe needs to move rapidly to utilise our strengths in innovation at all levels and in all sectors of the future mobility and transport systems to remain at the forefront.  At the same time, we need to be open to international cooperation. We need to be well-aligned, globally on the framework conditions, defining technical regulations and setting standards.

The target, as highlighted in the CCAM’s Strategic R&I Agenda, is “European leadership in safe and sustainable road transport through automation”. The €500 million of European funding should provide the catalyst to accelerate the innovation ‘reaction’. At the same time, significant additional public and private investment will still be necessary to make connected and automated mobility a reality in Europe and around the world in the coming decade.

Europe can indeed assume a leading role and it is an opportunity we should not miss. CLEPA is convinced that the CCAM Partnership will help move Europe in the right direction, and the automotive suppliers in Europe are supporting every step of the way.

Sigrid de Vries

CLEPA Secretary General


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