With more than 90% of all car accidents caused by human error, connected and automated driving promises to bring huge safety benefits on our roads.

A visual quote from Roberto Viola and Henrik Hololei automated driving blogpost

Authors: Roberto Viola (Director General DG Connect) /Henrik Hololei (Director General DG MOVE)

Driving your car can be fun on a country road in the sunshine and surrounded by beautiful landscape. However, conducting a vehicle in bad weather or in heavy traffic is usually not such an enjoyable experience. It can also be unsafe. In these cases you might, in the future, rely on the vehicle to do the driving for you ("highway chauffeur"). This highly automated driving service will connect your car to the transport infrastructure and make it process data in a way which will help smooth traffic, avoid congestion and reduce emissions. This will also increase road safety: vehicles that are connected and communicate with each other and with the transport infrastructure will anticipate and avoid dangerous situations and can react quickly in case of danger.

To make connected and automated driving a reality, it is now important to have all, the EU, national authorities and industry teamed up to experiment with new technologies and the enabling conditions: connectivity, access to data, security and liability.

The automotive and telecom industries have already joined forces in the European Alliance of Telecoms and Automotive. The Alliance envisages the establishment of intelligent cross-border sections to test the possibilities that connectivity and automation offer for road transport in real traffic conditions. In a first phase, the Alliance envisages testing the "highway chauffeur" and truck platooning. Identifying the sections on which to conduct such experiments will however require close cooperation with the concerned Member States.

We are just back from a High Level Meeting that was held on 15 February at Schiphol. Representatives of 26 Member States, of industry and of the European Commission agreed to continue their close cooperation to bring automated mobility forward in Europe. They stressed the need for a common and coherent approach in Europe. On this occasion, the European Commission proposed experimentation on data-access, liability and connectivity using cross-border corridors and invited Member States to support. Reaction from Member States was positive and we expect that they will endorse the cross-border experimentation approach at the Digital Day in Rome on 23 March that we organise on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.

Earlier this month, France and Germany agreed to build a cross-border corridor between the 2 neighbouring regions of Lorraine and Saarland to test connected and automated driving. This is a first step to be expanded and followed by other Member States and regions. We are now working with Member States to link different test-sections, to enable cross-border testing and align them with the existing TEN-T corridors. The cross-border dimension is of paramount importance to ensure interoperability all over Europe and avoid having vehicles stopped when they reach a border.

Experimentation will also serve the purpose of introducing the fifth generation of wireless communication systems early in the process. This will be very much debated at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week. Our target for 2025 is for all urban areas as well as major roads and railways in Europe to have uninterrupted 5G coverage, as foreseen in the 5G Action Plan. 5G will ensure high speed, low latency and sufficient capacity for millions of cars to interact at the same time. To meet this 2025 target the Commission intends to start with advanced cellular technology, evolving to 5G networks. This evolutionary path will take into account co-existence with already available wireless technologies, such as ITS-G5 and LTE. All this is part of the bigger picture of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) and can only work if data exchanges are efficient.

To allow connected and automated mobility, we need to ensure smooth and secure data exchange between vehicles and between vehicles and road infrastructure. Experimentation in this area, as foreseen in the Communication on Building a European Data Economy will show us what we need to know: what are the technological and regulatory needs? How should we address the ownership and flow of data and develop the necessary standards? And who will be liable for possible damages?

Europe needs word-leading technology, optimum connectivity, smooth data flows and clear liability rules in order to take advantage of the potential of connected and automated mobility, but also to maintain competitiveness in this field on a global scale. Huge investments will be needed but with the right rules and mind-set, private and public investors will be confident that Europe is the place to be to build the mobility systems of the future. EU cooperation must aim at ensuring the right conditions for our automotive and digital industries to engage wholeheartedly in this endeavour.