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Making road transport more intelligent

A key contributor to this year's Transport Research Arena (TRA) Conference, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Information Society and Media (DG INFSO) works to develop and deploy applications based on information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the transport sector.

Driver's point of view
DG INFSO for smarter vehicles
© Peter Gutierrez

ICTs can warn drivers of potentially dangerous situations, take over part of the control over a car, or communicate with emergency services. Research into this kind of technology is conducted under the so-called 'Intelligent Car Initiative'.

Working together on safer roads

The Intelligent Car Initiative works with input from car manufacturers, road operators, telecom companies, road traffic service providers, all of whom meet together within the  eSafety Forum, a co-operative body that links the European automotive industry and the Commission.

Established in 2003, the eSafety Forum currently consists of about 200 members, representing all major parties with an interest in road safety. Their objective is to arrive at consensus through the exchange of information and open debate.

eCall to the rescue

An example of how cars can be made more intelligent is the eCall device. After a serious accident, the eCall device automatically calls rescue services and transmits crash site location data, thus significantly cutting rescue services’ response time. Calls can also be made manually, at the push of a button.

In addition to the automatic data link, a voice connection is also established between the vehicle and the rescue centre. This way, any car occupant capable of answering questions can provide additional details on the accident.

Car accident
ICTs can help drivers in
© Peter Gutierrez

Research towards smarter, safer and cleaner vehicles

The long-term objective of the  Intelligent Car Initiative is smarter, safer and greener road transport. Achieving this requires sustained research efforts. Intelligent Car therefore works to promote co-operative research in Intelligent Vehicle Systems (IVSs) and helps to push forward the uptake and application of real research results.

Under the EU research framework programme, scientific activities are supported in the following areas:

  • The next generation of Driver Assistance Systems, aimed at enhancing performance, reliability and security;
  • Preventive safety, focusing on technologies for accident avoidance;
  • Co-operative systems based on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication;
  • Real time travel and traffic information (RTTI) and intermodal transport;
  • Creating a comprehensive, technical and socio-economic programme to assess the impact of IVSs on driver behaviour and driving dynamics, based on large-scale field operational tests.

Bringing results to market

While some IVSs have already been present in cars for quite some time, uptake in other cases remains limited. Electronic Stability Control systems (ESCs), for instance, computerised technologies that improve vehicle safety by detecting and minimising skidding, have been on the market for more than ten years, but they are only installed in a small percentage of all passenger cars, and in ess than half of all new cars. For other IVSs, e.g. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), the numbers are even lower.

Consumer research reveals that low market uptake and penetration can be explained in large part by the fact that drivers and policy makers simply don’t know about the benefits of these systems, or how they work. Information dissemination to a wide audience is therefore an important third field of activity for the Intelligent Car Initiative.