Intelligent cooperative systems hold the promise of great improvements both in the efficiency of the transport systems and in the safety of all road users. Their fruitful deployment demands the intervention of public bodies to equip urban and interurban roads with the proper infrastructure.
Intelligent cooperative systems increase the time horizon, the quality and reliability of information available to the drivers about their immediate environment, the other vehicles and road users, enabling improved driving conditions. This eventually leads to enhanced safety and efficiency for both passenger mobility as well as freight transport. At the same time, such systems offer invaluable information about the vehicles, their location and the road conditions to the road operators and competent authorities, allowing an optimized and safer use of the road network, better control and response to incidents and hazards.
A cooperative road network adapts in real time to actual demand. In a cooperative road network, information about traffic, incidents and hazards is available for the entire network, and contains far more details than today’s traffic information broadcasts. For the first time, network management systems can interact with individual vehicles providing valuable and timely information. Drivers can save on fuel while at the same time reduce their vehicle’s GHG emissions and breathe a cleaner air, because cooperative systems reduce queuing time, searching for a parking space and stop-and-go driving in heavy traffic.
“Autonomous”, non-cooperative traffic management technologies are rapidly approaching their limits for a positive impact on traffic efficiency, and further gains are at increasingly high costs. Thus, once every city junction has a dynamically adaptive traffic control system and there are variable message signs showing where there are serious traffic problems, little can be further done without communicating directly and cooperatively with individual vehicles.
Initiatives on developing and deploying such systems have been started in the USA, Japan and Europe. Europe is well placed in the research on autonomous and stand-alone systems for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, which have been funded in the EU programmes for over a decade. The systems under consideration allow the vehicles on the road to exchange information with other vehicles in their proximity or with road-side equipment elements (e.g. traffic lights), such as distance among the vehicles (alerting the driver to reduce the vehicle speed to avoid clashes), traffic conditions in the area (to optimize the route of the vehicle and avoid congested roads), and more elaborated data such as the best speed the driver should keep to save on fuel and exploit green waves, or how to manage priorities on traffic lights for trucks and emergency vehicles, etc. These studies have benefited from the support of political initiatives such as eSafety and built on the functionalities provided by the advanced driver assistance systems, traffic control and management systems, and motorway management systems.
Even though the technology is still evolving, several communities have already shown a strong interest in such initiatives and are testing the technologies. Examples come from Norway (the city of Trondheim) and the Netherlands (the Rotterdam-Brabant-Antwerp corridor). The EU support on these initiatives has been clearly shown through the inclusion of cooperative systems in the ITS Action Plan (Directive 2010/40/EU).
However it is the local governments, municipalities and road network operators that need to show their support and interest on these systems, study their local feasibility and organize deployment strategies.