Bridge building at the ITS Austria Conference 2014

10/01/2014

This year‘s ITS Austria Conference was held under the motto “Bridging Boundaries”. The conference motto, for the first time in English, provides an initial hint on the focus areas and their heavy international orientation. Consequently the major part of the ITS Austria Conference was held in English in order to accommodate the international bridge building aspect.

The first day was characterised by interesting and diversified speeches and discussions. The opening statements gave an overview about the national framework in the area of intelligent transport systems from the viewpoints of the ITS Austria platform, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology as well as the from the traffic platforms ÖVG, GSV and ATTC. All speakers agreed on the necessity of incorporating end users even more when designing new mobility services. “At the end of the day we will have been successful if the users will actually use and appreciate our services”, said Josef Fiala, chairman of ITS Austria. The Austrian best practices are highlighted by the achievements of domestic research & development in the ITS sector as well as by successful projects like VAO and national efforts of focussing and internationally displaying Austrian competence. Subsequently the updated version of the catalogue of measures accompanying the Austrian ITS Action Plan, first issued in 2011, was presented. With 80% of the measures defined in its initial version being actually implemented time has come to phrase updated strategies in the area of ITS. Thus the catalogue of measures 2014 contains those topics that should be stimulated by public authorities until 2017 in order to be able to continue the positive development of ITS in Austria.

The well-known group of Austria speakers was accompanied by a broad field of international speakers and visitors, coming especially from neighbouring countries. With Julie Raffaillac a representative of the European Commission was present as well. She once more emphasised the potential of intelligent transport systems with regard to an improved usage of traffic infrastructure, on national as well as on international level. However there are many nationally established solutions ITS in European context is still very fragmented and thus less cost-efficient than it could be. As measures from Commission side she named the release of further specifications in accordance to the EU ITS Directive as well as a relaunch of the Directive itself and the White Paper on Transport from 2011. To stimulate cross-border innovation in the field of ITS, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will provide a suitable funding framework with a total volume of about 27 Billion Euros in the area of traffic and transport.

Among those who supported a transnational approach were Franc Žepič, coordinator of Priority Area 1B of the Danube Region Strategy, and Roman Srp, Chair of the Network of National ITS Associations. There cannot and must not be activities just from one company, one country or one region, it is rather necessary to integrate existing and future solutions on European level. At the same time it is crucial to take into account the different states and paces of ITS development in the single member states and regions. Major obstacles are insufficient competence in research and development as well as inefficient and slow funding instruments. These result in little willingness to invest and ultimately lead straight into a vicious circle. Thus the currently most important topics are public procurement, flexible funding instruments and suitable business models. Consequently non-profit stakeholders like the ITS Austria platform, that are close to industry, authorities and interest groups, will take a key role in future activities and processes.

Building upon the cross-border initiatives EDITS and CROCODILE as well as the Danube Region Strategy the second day of the ITS Austria Conference intensively dealt with transnational bridge building in the course of three thematic workshops.

In the first workshop the project EDITS was in the centre of discussions. Project partners and other participating experts agreed on the increasingly important role that transnational data exchange will take in the future and that high data quality is a crucial aspect for user acceptance. The EDITS approach on cross-border traffic information services was regarded to be feasible and sensible by the stakeholders. Ticketing and reservation services were discussed as options for extending the system and the integration of further data sources and partners was found to be the possible next step. Marketing offers additional potential for the respective services to reach more users, especially tourist information could enhance the services’ range of functions in the future. The crucial aspect however is the stakeholders’ willingness to share the data.

The second workshop addressed the transposition of the EU ITS Directive with regard to the establishment of national bodies, national access points for traffic data and the availability of such data in general. In a World Café, stakeholders from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia and Austria discussed their approaches to these topics. In spite of legislative and organisational differences in the respective countries the discussions unveiled numerous commonalities in past and future activities. Because of this it was possible to agree upon a necessary minimum of traffic data every set of transnationally exchanged data will contain. It was stated that establishing national bodies and national access points until the end of 2015 is possible and realistic. The project CROCODILE will be an important catalyst in defining the technical and legislative preconditions for the operation of these entities.

The third workshop was dedicated to strategic topics, with developing a roadmap for the implementation of ITS solution in the Danube Region being the central aspect. The prioritisation of ITS deployment activities and the consolidation of R&D initiatives, together with identifying possible connection points for funding instruments, are important aspects. It will be of major importance to cope with the needs of all participating regions and countries. The workshop participants took the opportunity to define the topics that could be part of the roadmap. Knowledge exchange was ranked first, also the participants agreed on the necessity of focussing on the whole infrastructure network as well as on creating a minimum level of service quality. In further consequence prioritised ITS deployment measures will be elaborated for the Danube Region – based on the workshop results – and will be coordinated with the national ITS experts.

Solutions like the Austrian VAO, the Hungarian KIRA system or the Czech viaRODOS, which were presented on the first day of the conference, clearly indicate that nationally coherent solutions are by no means utopian but tangible reality. Consequently the workshops on the second day were fully dedicated to integrating such national solutions on European level. The workshop results can be considered a thorough success and lead the way towards a connected and barrier-free Europe.