“This will be the first discussion in the European Union at political level!”, says Marjolijn Sonnema, Director Roads and Traffic safety, and deputy Director General of Transport and Mobility at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.
Among other activities the Netherlands will be targeting the European agenda by organising the European Truck Platooning Challenge 2016 on 6 April 2016. Shortly afterwards this will be followed by an Informal conference for European Transport Ministers on 14 and 15 April 2016.
Sonnema believes that putting cooperative and automated driving on the menu highlights the importance of – and indeed anticipation of – developments in the area of smart mobility and cross-border cooperation within the EU. In April, the Transport Ministers will be discussing topics including privacy, data and regulation. The ambition for this conference is to mark the start of greater cooperation between the EU member states, the European Commission and the industry. For example, member states can be stimulated to mutually learn from experiences and investigating the potential for shared test corridors. The Truck Platooning Challenge plays an important role here, as does the ambition to increase cooperation.
“Minister Schultz’s policy is designed to anticipate and enable cooperative, automated and autonomous driving”, says Sonnema, “as well as removing barriers, boosting international cooperation and the development of knowledge. Learning by doing is crucial here. All these aspects are contained within the Challenge. Various stakeholders work together and carry out practical testing. That way, we harvest new knowledge, together. The cross-border aspect of the cooperation is vital. By working and developing together, we can avoid a patchwork of legislation and barriers arising between member states. Platoons and other automated traffic simply need to be able to go on driving!”
The Challenge as a concrete case is, in Sonnema’s view, unique. “The fact that we are just going ahead shows how important we think it is not to get tied up in abstract details. We’ll need to identify possible barriers or hindrances confronting platooning and solve these where possible. That makes the initiative an ongoing learning experience.”
“And the fact is that the initiative has created a solid network of cooperating partners”, she says, looking ahead. “The main thrust of the success of this Challenge lies in learning together, to look over and across existing boundaries. That goes for the various parties: knowledge institutes, manufacturers, road authorities and governmentals. I’m sure that, in 18 months from now, we will be able to look back on a successful event – a symbol of innovative, multidisciplinary cooperation. And with a network created via cooperation, this will go from a one-off event to full deployment in subsequent steps towards connected, automated and autonomous driving!”
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