future view

Smart mobility systems in the global spotlight

29 March 2019 • 4 min reading time

In the summer of 2019, the Netherlands will show Europe just how far we have progressed towards making the use of automated vehicles an everyday reality. This event is scheduled to take place during the ITS European Congress (intelligent transport systems) from 3 to 6 June, at Brainport Eindhoven-Helmond. The Netherlands is a world leader in this field, as recent international research has once again confirmed.

As a knowledge institution, TNO is making a major contribution to these developments. Our top researchers use TNO’s unique test facilities to accelerate and optimize the development, realization and effectiveness of new mobility systems. We are tackling these challenges on three levels – the vehicle, the mobility system, and the societal impact. The focus, therefore, is on the technology in the car, communication between cars and with their surroundings, road safety and driver behaviour, as well as legislation and regulations. There’s also the challenge of designing new systems that will have the maximum impact on traffic flow, road safety, and emissions. TNO is not doing this all by itself. It is cooperating with the government, with regional authorities and with fellow knowledge institutions, as well as with various players in national and international markets.

“Our high-quality facilities are used to predict the impact of connected-automated transport on motorways and in towns and cities"

“Our high-quality facilities are used to predict the impact of connected-automated transport on motorways and in towns and cities. These facilities range from simulation environments to tests in controlled conditions, and test vehicles travelling alongside everyday road traffic. There is no other country that has anything like this, which is why major manufacturers and other parties are keen to cooperate with us”, says TNO Innovation Manager Joëlle van den Broek.

International network

Over the past decade, TNO has developed an impressive international network of manufacturers, suppliers, government authorities, insurers and logistics companies. If self-driving cars are to be genuinely useful in practice, they will need to be linked to other vehicles, to the road environment, and to back offices. This would entail the installation of intelligent traffic lights and the establishment of traffic control centres. The biggest change is not the self-driving car itself – no matter how technically complex that may be. It is the fact that the entire mobility system is changing as a result of automation, digitization and electrification. This is not just about technology, it is also about processes and effects. Accordingly, TNO wants to create optimum mobility systems, by means of public-private partnerships.

System optimization

“From the very outset, our focus at TNO has been on system optimization and interoperability which, by their very nature, require cooperation between different parties with a range of interests. As an independent knowledge institution, we felt duty-bound to play a facilitating role in this process. We are now playing a key part in coordinating the activities of all the major manufacturers and their suppliers. In early 2016, during the Dutch presidency of the EU, we enabled platoons of trucks – all of the same make – to travel from other countries to the port of Rotterdam. We are now ready for the next step, in which ‘trains’ of trucks – of different makes – will travel alongside everyday road traffic”, Joëlle says.

Road safety, traffic flow, and sustainability

The goal of all of these technical and organizational innovations is to promote road safety, traffic flow, and sustainability. We have now entered the design and implementation phase. That is also the primary objective of the government’s carefully targeted policy. TNO has learned a great deal from the numerous tests and experiments it has carried out in recent years. As a result, we are now in a position to take a prudent step towards actual implementation. This will pave the way for a new generation of vehicles to become an effective part of the Dutch mobility system. Indeed, TNO and its partners plan to demonstrate this new reality during the ITS congress.

“Platooning enables traffic to flow more smoothly. In addition, the trucks and cars involved will respond immediately to any potentially unsafe situations"

Thus, platoons of passenger cars and trucks will travel between Eindhoven and Helmond, alongside everyday road traffic. By this means, we will demonstrate that communication between vehicles and their surroundings can enhance traffic flow and road safety. Demonstrations of truck platooning will take place at TNO’s smart intersection in Helmond. Here, the trucks will communicate with – and respond to – traffic lights, passenger cars, cyclists and other road users. This will enable traffic to flow more smoothly. In addition, the trucks and cars involved will respond immediately to any potentially unsafe situations.

“Our solutions are a highly innovative export product. If it works here, it will work anywhere”

Great export product

In contributing to the development of these innovations, TNO is helping to make smart mobility a reality throughout the country. We want to use the ITS congress to showcase the progress we have made in this area. “In fact, we’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone”, says Joëlle. “This country is facing a mobility problem, and we want to demonstrate the practical feasibility of the various solutions we are implementing. At the same time, we are setting an example for other countries or urban conurbations that are facing problems of congestion and air pollution. After all, if it works here, it will work anywhere. Our solutions are a highly innovative export product. The strength of this solution is that it was not created in isolation. Indeed, everything was developed in cooperation with major automobile manufacturers, telecom companies, navigation equipment producers, and government bodies. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management refers to this as: Smart mobility Dutch reality.”

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