Speech at the event: Driving Future Platform: Autonomous Driving and the Question of Digital and Analogue Infrastructure”; European Parliament, Brussels. [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]


Distinguished Members and guests,

Let me start by thanking you, Ismail, for organising the Driving Future Forum.

Transport is key to our economic and social cohesion. Both in the EU and globally. Despite the huge importance of the sector, we can see many changes happening.

Indeed, we are driving into a new future where the whole notion of 'driving' will be re-defined. Driving may no longer be about holding the wheel and watching the road but about sitting back and reading a newspaper, holding a meeting, or even playing games. Today's kids may therefore never have a driver's licence and the concept of 'car accidents' might be something they will learn about in their history books. Even air pollution, which kills hundreds thousands of Europeans prematurely every year could sound to them like some medieval epidemic - simply because these problems will have been solved. Connected and automated driving will be a major driver to reduce accidents, air pollution, fight climate change and reduce import dependency of energy – thus contributing to economic prosperity and political stability.

This is our vision for the future. This has to be seen in the broader context of the significant changes that are transforming mobility, which the Commission addressed more comprehensively in our Communication "Europe on the Move" , adopted at the end of May. 

On the ground, we're moving fast. We already enjoy advanced driver assistance systems (such as lane keeping assistance or emergency braking). By 2019, we expect to see the first generation of cooperative vehicles. But of course, major challenges remain. We still have to handle some great challenges, including upgrading our communication infrastructure, addressing cybersecurity threats, or ensuring data protection. There are also the questions about the industrial impact: how do we ensure Europe takes the lead and enjoys the first mover's advantage? There are societal questions about ensuring a smooth transition and of course ethical and legal questions.

This kind of questions cannot be solved in isolation from one another. And they cannot be solved in silos of specific sectors or industries. They require a joint and holistic approach between industries, between the private and public sectors, between European countries.

I can assure you that we, in the Commission, see this topic as a high priority and we see our role in steering, accelerating, and supporting the emerging European market of autonomous cars. How?

  • We can financially support research in order to keep a European advantage in the global automobile industry.
  • We can build cross-border platforms for exchanges of knowledge, technical expertise and best practices.
  • Investment support for cross-border infrastructure.
  • And we can ensure a stable and consistent regulatory environment across the entire EU market. Yes, our goal is to pour oil, not sticks, in the wheels of this transition!

And that is exactly what we have been doing over the past years. I will not be able to provide a full overview of what we have been doing along those lines, but let me briefly give some examples.

When it comes to funding, we have used the Connecting Europe Facility 2016, inviting proposals on creating synergies between new technologies in different fields, such as connectivity, cooperative systems, and automation. The idea is to build on the existing Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) services and build new ones.

As of next year, the Commission will also fully-fund a 4 year pilot phase of a European Cyber Security Credential Management System - which will be open to all stakeholders. This involves the setup of central coordination functions as well an operational EU Root Certification Authority. It will allow all European deployment initiatives to ensure interoperability, security and trust of communications.

We have also been active in ensuring coherence across the EU market. The Commission supports the C-ROADS platform which ensures cross-border pan-European interoperability. This target was originally set by the automotive industry and I'd like to thank your representatives here for continuously being vocal on this commitment.

The importance of cross-border corridors for testing new technologies was also reflected in the Letter of Intent which was sent recently by all EU27 countries, plus Switzerland and Norway. It further enhances the position of the High Level Roundtable of Telecom and Automotive Industries.

Finally, we have been working towards concrete proposals such as last November's European Strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) which sets the scene for future development of connectivity, cooperative and automated systems.

Last but not least, the high Level Group Gear 2030 has just completed its work of developing a comprehensive set of policy and regulatory recommendations focused on the deployment of advanced automated vehicles in the future.


So what are our next steps from here?

First, the platform of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems will publish the final report of its second phase on 20 September. We expect to see C-ITS equipped vehicles on European roads by 2019. The Commission will also provide legal certainty for C-ITS deployment in 2018.

The GEAR 2030 conclusions (on 18 October) will result in a roadmap focusing on political, ethical and regulatory aspects to ensure an effective deployment of connected and automated vehicles in the years to come.

Soon after, we will publish the 2018-2019 Work Programme of Horizon 2020 where a whole chapter will be dedicated to automation.

But the next few months will see more than reports and recommendations. Very concretely, this year the C-ROADS platform will double the number of its members, of its deployment initiatives and its investments in digital road infrastructure. This means tangible progress by authorities and road operators towards the harmonisation of cooperative intelligent transport systems across Europe. We must stay on this fast track!

As already announced, we will present the second mobility package towards the end of the year. It will include new CO2 emissions standards for cars and vans, and a revision of the EU legislation on clean vehicles. This will accelerate the uptake of low-emission public transport vehicles such as buses.

Yet, I am well aware that electrification will only happen with adequate infrastructure and better batteries. Our services are therefore analysing the national alternative fuel infrastructure plans and will issue recommendations and proposals for financing as well. As for batteries we're working hand in hand with various stakeholders in order to push for the next generation of manufacturing – here in Europe.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have tried to give you a sense of how we, the EU institutions can and will support this transition. But we will not make this transition from here in Brussels. We are counting on Europe's industry to take the lead. Europe was a global leader of the previous industrial revolutions, literally paving the way of the rail and train industries and later the automotive industries. Let us also lead this third industrial revolution which is based on clean, connected, and competitive mobility.

This means embracing new technologies without necessarily waiting for consumer demand. Look, for example, at the transition from mobile phones to smart phones, or from traditional watches to digital ones. These success stories were driven by supply of new technologies; not by demand for new solutions. You know better than I do that when there's a true value proposition, the market follows.

If you don't do it; other companies will and will enjoy the first mover's advantage. That is why a 'business as usual' approach is doomed to fail. Our industries, especially the car industry, will have to constantly re-invent themselves.

I would also like to call on the private sector to recognise the need of investment in physical and digital infrastructures. These investments will need to cover the creation, maintenance and storage of large amounts of data, as well as the means to share this data across platforms, brands and borders. There are great opportunities in these fields!

As I mentioned, the EU will provide assistance but we cannot and should not replace the private sector.

Let me conclude by using the opportunity of being here in the European Parliament. I'd like to kindly urge our colleagues in this House to prioritise the legislation that we have put on the table as part of the Energy Union, including this field of mobility. We made every effort to put all the legislation on the table as early as possible into this mandate. Indeed, by the end of last year 90% of the legislation of the Energy Union had been presented and we are working now on the last pieces. This fast pace had the clear goal of allowing us to complete the legislative process before the end of our term.

Let us, together, deliver on our promises to Europe's citizens.

Thank you very much.