We are coming to grips with the idea of e-learning, e-shopping and a whole host of other ‘electronic' facilitation, but soon we could also have e-driving and a host of e-safety technologies to look forward to. A Commission proposal to replace the scores of different driving permits in the EU-25 with a single EU format is in the legislative pipeline, while much ICT-related research is underway to make driving a safer practice for everyone.
The European Union wants to bid farewell to paper driving licences still in use in some Member States. Although no specific timetable was included in the Commission's proposal for new e-driving permits, members of the Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee reviewing the document see ordinary licences being replaced by a wallet-sized plastic one within ten years. And, within 20 years, a single EU driving licence format should be introduced.
|Germany showing off its driving e-permit.|
© Bundes Druckerei
Policy-makers see the proposed directive as “a step towards a simpler, more logical and modern system”, eventually leading to the replacement of 110 different driving licences issued in the 25 Member States with a uniform credit-card-sized plastic document.
Member States would be free to decide whether or not to include a microchip in their cards. The chip would contain harmonised driving licence data, and such information should be used only for functions directly related to the driving licence, the EU's eGovernment News service reported.
EU transport ministers agreed in 2004 to harmonise driving licences across Europe. Among other goals, they would like to facilitate the free movement of EU citizens by working towards mutual recognition of all licences to reduce the possibilities for fraud, but also to increase road safety. There are also other e-initiatives aimed at making EU roads a safer place to be on.
One such scheme, called e-safety, is a joint initiative of the Commission's Enterprise and Information Society DGs, working with industry and other stakeholders, to develop and deploy so-called “intelligent integrated safety systems”. These systems use information communications technology to improve European road safety and reduce accidents (every year around 45 000 people are killed and 1.5 million injured on EU roads).
Research funded by the EU in this field includes such projects as AIDE, which stands for ‘Adaptive Integrated Driver-Vehicle Interface' and envisages, for example, seamless integration between hand-held personal communication (PC) devices and on-board computers in cars. From one car to the next, your personal driving settings could be automatically fed into the vehicle's computer – downloading, at the same time, your driving experience and responding to the conditions of the road. Ideally, scientists are working towards providing cars with the most modern active safety systems – lane control support, collision warning, enhanced vision, safe following and pedestrian detection – with personalised e-safety features.
More information about the technological developments in the Union's broader eEurope 2005 initiative can be found on the dedicated website and, for specific research projects, the Information Society Technologies (IST) website.