Europe wants to pick up the pace towards market introduction of self-driving vehicles

European cooperation will be intensified to facilitate the smooth introduction of self-driving vehicles. The shared ambition is to be ready in 2019 for the further roll-out of self-driving vehicles that can communicate with one another and with infrastructure.

Together, the member states will remove obstacles hampering the introduction of connected and automated vehicles. National traffic and transport rules will be harmonised and coordinated work will be done on a digital communication system so that cars in Europe can “talk” to one another – and to infrastructure – properly. In addition, European countries will cooperate on cross-border testing so that based on experiences in practice the right steps can be taken to support development.  
 
In Amsterdam today, with the Declaration of Amsterdam, European transport ministers committed to support and facilitate all forms of self-driving vehicles. They will join forces and, together with the European automotive sector and supplying industry (IT), the aim is to be ready for self-driving vehicles in three years. A representative of European car manufacturers was also present at the meeting in Amsterdam.
 
Minister Schultz van Haegen: ‘Today for the first time, we have talked at the European political level about self-driving vehicles and the measures required for their smooth introduction in Europe. We want to pick up the pace because there are many gains to be made for mobility. Connected and automated vehicles will make our roads safer, more sustainable and more efficient. By harmonising legislation and car systems, in the future self-driving cars and trucks will not require a new update at every border.’
 
EU Commissioner Bulc: ‘Connected and automated vehicles will make transport safer, more efficient and inclusive and  offer great opportunities for the EU industry. The Commission will continue to work closely with the industry and EU Member States to create the conditions for connected vehicles to hit European roads already in 2019. Building on the momentum of the Amsterdam Declaration, we will release a master plan on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems later this year. This will be an important step to ensure continuity of service from day one.’

  ‘Connected and automated vehicles promise to make road transport more sustainable and efficient in the next decades,’ says Erik Jonnaert. Jonnaert represents ACEA, the European umbrella organisation of the 15 Europe-based car, van, truck and bus makers. ‘But even though this revolution is shaping our industry at a rapid pace, there are many challenges on the road ahead.’ The industry therefore welcomes the Declaration of Amsterdam. ‘We see it as a milestone, promoting much-needed cooperation between automobile manufacturers, national governments and the EU institutions,’ Jonnaert concludes.
 
At the transport ministers meeting at the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, it was noted that self-driving vehicles offer many benefits. The expectation is that they will prove safer. Every year, tens of thousands of Europeans are involved in road accidents, ninety percent of which are caused by human error.

Self-driving vehicles use less fuel which is not only good for the environment but also for the wallet. Moreover, they ensure a better flow of traffic and allow the elderly to remain mobile longer.

The ministers in attendance stated that a constructive, common agenda is needed in order to facilitate the introduction of connected and automated vehicles. European countries currently have different approaches, infrastructure and traffic rules. Good cooperation is necessary to ensure that self-driving vehicles can travel on roads throughout in Europe without problems. And that is difficult when different rules and systems are in place everywhere.

The transport ministers agreed to examine the traffic rules and regulations that are currently different across the European Union, to coordinate investment in digital communication with infrastructure, and to facilitate cross-border testing. Together, the member states are also going to tackle issues regarding cyber security, privacy, liability and data protection.

After the meeting on Thursday, the European transport ministers were themselves able to experience travelling in a self-driving vehicle. They were taken across Amsterdam in self-driving and highly automated vehicles under an exemption permitting the vehicles to drive on public roads. Some 20 cars were involved, made by: Volvo, BMW, Daimler, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Tesla, Renault, Peugeot/Citroen (PSA) and the research institutes Vedecom (FR) and the TNO/Dutch Automated Vehicle Initiative (DAVI).  

Testing on public roads is in line with the approach in which experiences in practice are used to find solutions to issues that arise. An example of this is the cross-border Truck Platooning Challenge that recently took place. In the first week of April, six convoys of trucks from Sweden, Germany and Belgium drove on the motorway to Rotterdam.