The European Transport Forum 2015
How can we ensure a safe, reliable and secure transport system in Europe?
Keynote address Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport, European Commission
In her opening statement, Ms Bulc stated that considerable progress has been made in reducing the number of deaths on European roads. She said that since the European Union first set targets for reducing road deaths in 2000, road deaths decreased by 53%.
Ms Bulc indicated that the gains in the years since 2010 were not as notable as in the first years, and in 2014 the numbers of road deaths even slightly increased. She called this “a wake‐up call”.
The Commissioner explained that a holistic approach is required, with a mix of measures, such as investments, technology and close cooperation with and between the EU member states, before elaborating on each of these three measures.
According to Ms Bulc, investments are needed to improve EU infrastructure. She stated that in 2015, 13.1 billion € were allocated to 276 different projects in the first Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) call and added that there will be another CEF call before the end of the year.
She also believes that President Juncker’s plan, worth 315 billion €, will also leverage significant private investment.
As a result of these investments it is expected that improved infrastructure will remove bottlenecks, reduce congestion and reduce the number of accidents.
In the field of technology as well, Ms Bulc sees huge potential, pinpointing digitalization of transport as one of her core content drivers. She said that human error, involving speed, alcohol and fatigue, plays an important part in road accidents. Pointing at the Horizon 2020 program and the European Commission’s digital single market strategy launched this year, Ms Bulc explained that work is ongoing to improve technology on road transport to improve safety and added that Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) will make vehicles safer for their occupants and for vulnerable road users.
Then Ms Bulc came to the third measure: continued close cooperation with member states. She said that EU rules such as the cross‐border enforcement directive, improved safety standards for vehicles, a common EU driving license and the new digital techno‐graphs were only made possible thanks to the support of member states.
Earlier this year the commission completed the evaluation of the road safety policy framework, which, Ms Bulc believes, provides encouraging conclusions. She said that despite the slight increase of road deaths in 2014, the strategic target of halving road deaths by 2020 can still be reached. “The evaluation shows that we must refocus our actions on protecting vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, especially in urban areas,” she said.
Ms Bulc concluded that the framework remains relevant; work is ongoing as planned and several big milestones have been achieved; but work on this must continue to achieve the set objective of halving road deaths by 2020.
Keynote address José Viegas, Secretary‐General of the International Transport Forum Member of the United Nations Secretary‐General’s Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport
José Viegas started his speech by announcing that the Transport Ministers of the European ITF member countries approved the Quality Charter for International Road Haulage Operation, in which all 43 European1 countries accepted to bring their legislation and regulation regarding training of drivers, managers, and the preparation of haulage companies in line with EU regulations. In his opinion, this is a major step towards social harmonization in road transport, and will have a substantial effect on improved safety.
Mr Viegas highlighted the importance of having statistics that allow comparability, in order to have a unified interpretation of what the numbers mean. “All stakeholders in transport safety must develop a standard terminology,” he said. This is necessary to ensure that statistics can serve as a basis for analysis and measurement. As an example, he explained that the words injury or death can mean different things in different countries. “As important as the terminology is the data collection procedure,” he continued, “Often, two countries use the same terminology, but one has a ratio of key variables far higher than the other, due to the different way they collect the data.”
Mr Viegas also pointed out that over the past few years, thanks to improvements made in the body of vehicles, the ratio of serious injuries to fatalities has increased, but political pressure is much more on fatalities. The International Road Traffic and Analysis Database – established in 1988 through the OECD Road Transport Research Programme – wants to concentrate on serious injuries since the number is increasing and deserves more political attention.
Safety has to be seen as an ethical imperative, according to Mr Viegas. He explained that if the road traffic system would be built today, the number of fatalities and injuries would never be accepted. After many years of high death rates, the public has come to expect – almost to accept – the risks involved in traffic.
Another important thing, said Mr Viegas, is the acknowledgement that there is human error, that we are not infallible. “The objective of the ITF is to align decisions with broader societal values – economic, human, environmental, health and consumables.”
Mr Viegas said that the only ethically acceptable target is Zero. Though this may seem a daunting target, he insisted that it is possible to reach and referred to DEKRA statistics of European cities that achieved zero road fatalities for more than four years, thanks to driver education, careful preparation and organization of the traffic system.
Mr Viegas further focused much of his talk on vulnerable road users, with a disproportionate number of victims, since they are not as protected as car passengers.
He talked about the importance of designing and managing a system that protects the most vulnerable road users and explained that the work done in relation to cyclists demonstrates that this can be good for all road users.
“Walking is not safe”, said Mr Viegas, “Especially in relation to the number of km traveled.” He deplored that there are very few statistics with careful characterization of the environments and behaviors that lead to most pedestrian accidents. He explained that among traffic fatalities in the OECD countries, pedestrians represent anywhere between 8 and 37%, indicating a broad variety between relatively small and rich countries.
He stressed the importance of integrating urban design with mobility management and of keeping the pedestrian in mind while designing the system, deploring that very often the car takes central stage and pedestrians come as an after‐thought. “We have to give more priority and more space to non‐motorized traffic and public transport and to the safe system approach for walking design,” he said.
Another group of vulnerable road users is powered two‐wheelers (PTW), where little progress has been made. This group represents 8% of the total fleet, but has 17% of the fatalities, while driving smaller distances than cars. In a “per km” analysis, the rate of fatalities is 30 times higher for PTW than for cars.
Mr Viegas explained that research has pointed to introducing a licensing system by degrees, with in the first year the allowed driving power and speed would be lower. The driver could gradually move to a more ‘accomplished’ driver license and might be downgraded in case of worsening condition.
Mr Viegas also deplored the quality of helmets and the lack of wear comfort and called on the industry to improve this.
Regarding cycling, Mr Viegas commented that using the bicycle regularly is healthy, provided it can be made safe and said that statistically society gets better with more people cycling, reducing sickness in the population. He explained that reducing traffic speed is the most effective way to make cycling safe.
The next subject Mr Viegas covered was the use of ITS. To frame the subject, he described any dangerous traffic situation as composed of three phases: Perception of the danger – Decision on action to avoid an accident – Action actually taken. He explained that IT already provides significant help in the first phase (with warnings, through lane assist systems, etc.) and on the third phase (through fine control of the trajectory, the ABS, etc.). But the Decision phase poses tougher problems and more is needed.
A critical issue, according to Mr Viegas, is early recognition of pedestrians. He believes in the increased use of low cost wearables allowing detection of pedestrian or cyclist movement by cars.
Talking about autonomous driving, Mr Viegas painted a picture of complementarity between car and driver where the car would constantly monitor the physical and mental capacity of the driver and adjust performance of the car. “In many cases the computer could take over,” said Mr Viegas.
According to Mr Viegas, the most difficult issues are ethical, when we allow computers in a car decide which of two options to choose, in cases where both options will result in fatalities. “As a society we are not yet able to decide on the criteria the computer should evaluate to make its decision,” said Mr Viegas. “Society is not ready for cold‐hearted decisions like ‘kill these people, not the others’.”
To conclude, Mr Viegas talked about the importance of open dialogue and sharing knowledge and experience. “IT is already helping,” he said, “but it’s not a magic wand.”
Keynote speech Jan Gurander, CFO and interim CEO, Volvo Group
Mr Gurander discussed the importance of transport for the well‐functioning of society. He said it is a necessity if we want to ensure that all people live in a prosperous, safe and sustainable society. He acknowledged that while efficient transport is a strong driver of economic prosperity, it doesn’t come without challenges, such as accidents, pollution and use of natural resources. “At Volvo, we use our technological leadership to address these issues,” he said, stating that Volvo’s imperative is to put people at the center; that safety is part of the Volvo Group culture – and has been since the company was founded in 1927.
Mr Gurander therefore welcomed the fact that transport safety is high on the agenda for both the United Nations and the European Union. He went on to share his thoughts on safety
“Since accidents are largely preventable, the costs associated with them are also largely preventable,” he said, and stressed the fact that to really improve, close cooperation between vehicle producers, infrastructure developers and the people using the transport systems is needed.
Mr Gurander explained that if we are to succeed at developing safe and sustainable transport systems, innovation will be the key and said that the Volvo Group has a long history of driving innovation and welcomes legislation that improves the safety standard in the industry, citing connectivity and autonomous driving as examples of innovation.
He explained that the vast amount of data that connected vehicles will produce will be very valuable to many public and commercial actors, giving as an example the possibility to use these data as a basis for more effective infrastructure investments, or for insurance companies to create risk evaluations.
Connected vehicles and Intelligent Transport Systems can contribute to increased safety. Whilst they may not be the answer to all road‐related issues, next generation transport systems will improve how we move people, move goods, and, where possible, move less. Connectivity will enable greener, safer and healthier transport systems.
With safety as a pre‐condition for automated systems, Mr Gurander also sees autonomous driving as a great innovation. “Any automated vehicle or function must quite simply be 100% reliable,” he said, and added that Volvo is encouraged by the fact that automation is a priority in the Netherlands and will be on the agenda during their half‐year EU presidency. He also saw automation as creating benefits in increased fuel efficiency, comfort and safety.
Continuous innovation being crucial, Mr Gurander believes that any developments should be fact based and tested. He looks for close cooperation with society in this area and wants to find ways to test innovations in real traffic, for example in cities. Though technical capability of innovations is a pre‐requisite, it is vital that they are matched to human behaviour, believes Mr Gurander.
He illustrated the Volvo Group’s dedication to traffic safety with the Volvo Accident Research Team, which has been collecting information and analyzing real world accidents since its creation in 1969 for the Volvo Group to use this knowledge as a basis for product development and features to improve both active and passive safety.
As an example of safe development, Mr Gurander cited the European Modular System, which allows longer and heavier vehicle combinations which are both fuel‐efficient and safe for long haul road transports.
Mr Gurander explained that in order to succeed, it is essential that we have a systematic and cooperative approach to improving our transport systems, involving the industry, politicians, authorities, research organizations and other stakeholders. He insisted that to develop a reliable, safe, secure and sustainable transport system, everyone must act together and put their differences aside and always commonly prioritize reliability and safety. This can be done by thinking from a system perspective, including city and traffic planning, traffic management and the construction and maintenance of road and cycling lanes.
As a conclusion, Mr Gurander stressed that there is no single solution for safe and sustainable transport systems. Innovation is a key but needs to be combined with real life demonstrations. Safety and security is complex and must be evaluated under real circumstances. He repeated that cooperation is essential.