Keynote speech by Mark Harbers, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Automotive Week Automotive Campus, Helmond

‘For cars, I believe the best times are yet to come. But to get there still requires serious efforts. To speed up innovation, we need public-private collaboration that transcends borders.’

Says Minister Harbers at the opening of Automotive Week in Helmond, 17 April 2023.

‘We believe that the mobility system will and must change. Our ambition is a future mobility system which is smart, sustainable and safe.’

This is what your briefing said. And the message sounded very familiar. Spot on! This, in a nutshell, is the Dutch government’s vision on the future of transport and mobility. Of motor vehicles in particular. I will talk more about this in a moment.

It’s always good to be with like-minded people.

And also to challenge each other, by discussing thought-provoking ideas.

So, thank you for inviting me here today.

And thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this stage with my counterparts Winfried Hermann, from Baden-Württemberg, and Viktor Haase, from Nordrhein-Westfalen.

In a small country like the Netherlands, you’re never far from a border. So transport and mobility are, almost by definition, international matters.

I compliment the organisers on putting together a packed programme, with interesting speakers and topical workshops and side events.

Let’s now dive into the mobility of the future. I’ll tell you about the situation in the Netherlands:

More than seventeen-and-a-half million people live in our beautiful but small country. And our population is still growing. The Netherlands is characterised by networks of compact cities with extensive suburban areas. Even rural areas have a fairly high population density.

Good connections between cities, satellite towns and rural areas are essential.

You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that keeping people moving in the Netherlands requires a highly sophisticated transport and mobility system. One that is smart, safe and sustainable.

Smart transport technologies focus on achieving maximum traffic safety and, of course, maximum sustainability.

Several innovations are completely transforming our transport and mobility system – not only for our own benefit, but for the next generations too.

This new system comprises all forms of private transport, car sharing, vehicle-grid integration, public transport, cycling infrastructure, mobility hubs and so on.

But today I’d like to make a few remarks on car use.

The car has long been the most popular mode of transport in our country. There are currently almost nine million cars on our roads. Seventy per cent of all kilometres travelled in the Netherlands and 43 per cent of all journeys are made by car.  

In the years ahead, as our population grows and new housing estates are developed, mobility and accessibility issues will become ever more pressing.

This is playing out across the country. New housing estates will have good connections to the road network. In high-density areas and city centres where parking space is limited, car sharing will be an increasingly common solution. Car batteries, integrated into a smart grid, will play an important role in the future energy infrastructure.

Hybrid working allows people to live further from their work, since they no longer have to commute every day. Mobility hubs bring together different transport options, shops and services. They are easily accessible by public transport, on foot, by bicycle and by car – ensuring a smooth transfer to whatever transport mode works best for any given journey, day or night. Mobility as a Service, in other words.

And let me be clear: the car will remain a prominent option in the Netherlands’ future transport and mobility system. Because accessibility and freedom of movement are key.

The world of cars is always in motion, literally and figuratively. It is one of the most innovative industries around. Driving comfort and convenience are constantly being improved, although driving itself hasn’t changed all that much. The big changes are under the bonnet. That’s where innovation is making things safer, smarter and cleaner.

Digital technology and sensors in the new generation of cars are designed to enhance road safety. And, after the user has given permission, these cars can also share data about traffic jams, accidents, potholes or other road maintenance problems. This creates a new European ecosystem of real-time information that ensures safer, smoother traffic flows.

A great example of this is the project being carried out in this region: Digital Infrastructure for Future-proof Mobility.

In this European innovation pilot, the Dutch government, industry and knowledge institutions are developing techniques for cooperative, connected and automated mobility systems. Think: autonomously driving buses at terminals or state-of-the-art maps updated with information gathered by vehicles with sensors.

So, for cars, I believe the best times are yet to come.

But to get there still requires serious efforts. Close collaboration with and between public authorities in the Netherlands. With other countries – especially our neighbours. And with other European friends and industry. To speed up innovation, we need public-private collaboration that transcends borders.

So it’s great to see that today’s event has brought together all the players involved in developing next-generation transport and mobility!

We have a busy day ahead of us. So, let’s get to work!

Thank you.