Amsterdam declaration advances Europe in autonomous driving

May 9, 2016  - By
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red-ferrari

Photo: sippakorn/Shutterstock.com

Europe has leapt forward in the ragged advance toward autonomous road travel. The Declaration of Amsterdam, “Cooperation in the field of connected and automated driving,” signed April 14 by the 28 transport ministers of the European Union member states, lays out a strong vision of road future. The language shows some pretty steely resolve to see a driverless ground transport infrastructure materialize, and soon.

Overall, the ministers and the considerable might of assembled European government foresee “the development of mobility as a service.” Not as something that individuals undertake for themselves, but something that society (or corporations in society’s service) provides. Whether paid for by use or by taxes, travel may soon resemble healthcare.

All the usual compelling reasons are cited — safety, efficiency, reduced congestion — but the declaration offers a few more that aren’t heard as frequently:

  • The transition towards a zero-emissions society and the circular economy.
  • Benefit to the aging population (something everyone can relate to since we’re all headed that direction).
  • Improved mobility in rural areas.

The ministers acknowledge that ahead lie challenges aplenty, and not just the technological sort. “There are important questions to be answered regarding security, social inclusion, use of data, privacy, liability, ethics, public support and” — here’s the thorniest of all, in my view — “the co-existence of connected and automated vehicles with manually controlled vehicles.”

Three thoughts lifted from conversation with Jane Macfarlane, chief scientist at HERE:

The ecosystem hasn’t formed yet and nobody exactly knows what it looks like.

The map is critical to that vision. We have to go much deeper into the representation of sensor data and the environment. GNSS is at the absolute core of that.
Trust is key in a vehicle that’s controlling itself.

Whatever the new ecosystem turns out to be, this little red number may be an endangered species there. Alternately, networks or reserves for private driving may develop, much like civil aviation in the shadow of modern airline transport.

Down the road a piece, a brave new world awaits us.

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Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

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