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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Intelligent Transport Systems World Conference/Vienna
26 October 2012
These days, the world of transport faces many challenges. You've been talking about many of them at this conference.
You've probably heard about the recent traffic jam in China that lasted 11 days. Here in Europe we haven't seen anything so bad. But congestion is still a serious problem – not just frustrating for our citizens, but something that costs us between 1 and 1.5% of GDP; several hundred euros per person, each year.
By 2050, the worlds' roads could see 4 billion vehicles: four times today's figure. We need to avoid global gridlock.
Plus, we must manage our energy resources. We need energy sources that are secure but also sustainable. And remember that transport, especially road transport, is a major contributor to climate change.
In spite of all those challenges, we need to do everything we can to boost our economy, and bring us out of the crisis.
In short, we need smart solutions for transport: our economic and environmental future depends on it. Especially for road transport, of all kinds: passenger and freight; short distance and long; urban and rural; four-wheelers, two-wheelers, eighteen-wheelers.
And to do that, we need to seize every technological opportunity we can get.
But what will those opportunities be?
You know, predicting the future in this area can be risky. Back in 1909, Scientific American decided that the automobile had "practically reached the limit of its development". After all, they noted, the basic design had barely changed in two whole years - what more could there possibly be to improve?
The same edition, by the way, also looked forward to a new, exciting form of transport that could transform warfare – pigeons carrying spy cameras.
Scientific American is a great publication, but on this occasion they were wrong. And not just about the pigeons. Cars and vehicles have transformed hugely since 1909, and they will continue to do so.
I'm sure this week you have heard so many people say all there is to say about mobility that's smart, intelligent, integrated, sustainable, clean, and much more.
But one thing's for certain: a big part of the transformation in the coming decades will come from new digital technology.
The fact is, new ICT technologies are changing everything. Every sector is getting online, and using digital opportunities. Including transportation, but not only: tourism, teaching, television: you name it, they're all getting connected.
Already today we are seeing ICT-enabled innovations that change the way people drive; enabling new models like car sharing. And in the future, with every vehicle, every sensor plugged into the Internet of Things, we could have an electro-mobility revolution.
I want us to make the most of those opportunities. Here are three thoughts and examples of how we can do that.
First, the eCall system for alerting emergency services is a great step forward. Not some impossible futurist vision, but something that could be a reality for all very soon.
And it could save lives. Were it today installed in all cars, it could be saving two thousand lives a year.
Plus, with consistency across the EU, you can be sure to be protected, wherever you travel.
Our goal is for this life-saving technology to be in all new cars and light vehicles, in all Member States, by the end of 2015. And we are working to make that a reality.
Second, remember that two thirds of Europeans live in urban areas. Making our cities and communities smarter could make their lives better; less congested, greener, more pleasant.
Again, none of this is science-fiction. Indeed, in many cases, the ideas to power smart cities are already out there, the technology is available: we just need to deploy those inventions on the ground.
And there's particularly fertile ground at the intersection of ICT, transport and energy. Imagine, for example, trams that consume energy when they accelerate but give it back to the grid when they brake.
The European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities that we launched this year will overcome the barriers to deploying these ideas. To break down boundaries between the sectors involved; make solutions adaptable, interoperable, deployable; and give administrations and citizens the tools and information to improve their lives. For 2013 alone, €365 million in EU funds has been earmarked for demonstrating these kinds of urban technology solutions.
Third, to bring about this transformation, we need to continue to cooperate intensely. So I'm particularly pleased on the cooperation between manufacturers, road operators and road authorities in the "Amsterdam group". We will continue to work with international partners to ensure that European and non-European cars speak the same language.
We are working most intensively with the US: and you can see the fruits of that work in Hall A. But we're also looking further afield, like to Japan, China, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and Russia.
Already today, under the Seventh R&D Framework Programme, we are funding over 50 projects, all together worth 350 million euros, in areas like automotive safety, energy efficiency, and traffic management. Projects like SUNSET: imagine an app that encourages people to travel more sustainably, using social networks and incentives to cut congestion, increase safety, and protect the environment.
Combine that with research on basic components, electronics and smart systems, you can see why our long-term investment is helping Europe to lead worldwide.
This can continue under our proposal for the next generation of EU research, Horizon 2020. We will invest in smart, green and integrated transport. But transportation will also gain from many of the other areas of that programme. Like our investment in secure, clean, efficient energy and our work on smart grids; like the micro and nano-electronics that underpin new digital technologies; like the photonics ideas that help better, smarter manufacturing.
Overall, I want us to benefit from economies of scale and scope; avoiding partial or fragmented solutions; unlocking business opportunity. And I don't just want technology to enable new inventions, new toys, new gadgets. I want tomorrow's citizens to live in a society that's safer, stronger, and more sustainable. ICT can help us do all that.