ITS World Congress: chief rapporteur Eric Sampson’s summary  

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The ITS World Congress, held in Hamburg last week (October 11-15) was deemed to be huge success by all involved. A record-breaking 13,000+ visitors attended, with over 400 exhibitors and 210 highly focused sessions.

But with the sheer volume of information delivered in the conference program there is no way one person could take it all in – nevertheless that is what ‘godfather of the congress’ Eric Sampson was charged to do in his role as chief rapporteur.

He succeeded in delivering on this challenge with the help, as ever, of a large team who between them attended every session. He delivered his summary at the event’s closing ceremony last Friday (October 15) and Traffic Technology International was there to take it all in.

For anyone at the event – and also for those not able to attend – Sampson’s report is an invaluable snapshot of the state of ITS as debated at the 27th World Congress. Therefore, what follows, is the entire transcript of Samspon’s speech. We hope you find it useful…

Introduction

“I can’t give you a proper summary of over 300 hours sessions in a lot less than one, so I won’t be trying. But what I can do is paint a picture of an exhilarating week against the background of the key activities in the six congress halls.

“I can only do this because of the support from my fabulous rapporteur team. My universal eyes and ears. My profound thanks to all of them. There’s quite a few here. You’ll see their names and the longer reports on the congress that we aim to issue in late November or early December.”

1. Automated, Cooperative and Connected Mobility

“The Automation and Connectivity topic had the largest presence in the Congress again, with more use cases and more emphasis on actual deployment and take-up of services. Automation also received much attention mainly at the higher levels, but levels one and two systems were also addressed, such as dynamic distance assist or infrastructure-supported adaptive cruise control.

“Safety and security were prominent, such as safety assurance, risk estimation, cyber security, and obviously pedestrian safety. Certain papers explored the differences in legal approaches to connected and automated technology within countries and examined the future role of laws.

“Cooperative ITS has definitely moved forward. Discussions address its integration into databases, stakeholders, lessons learned in deployment, and the impacts on smart transport. Digital twins and roadside cloud architectures were recognized as important.

“Cooperative is currently moving from large-scale testing to widespread use. So the importance to road authorities and operators for improved safety and efficiency are pretty obvious and they’re increasing.

“By contrast, highly automated public transport seems stuck. Successful pilots with automated shuttle buses, mostly on dedicated infrastructure have not been adopted. Municipalities and transport companies seem reluctant to operate regular services. Why is it that establishing an operational system is so much more than running a pilot? The road to commercial automated vehicles is not just technology, and it’s going to gain a lot more attention over the coming years.”

Congress venue, Hamburg Messe

2. Mobility on demand, Mobility as a Service

“This popular topic has been discussed at conferences since 2014. And the publication of the seminal MC thesis. Popular topics in Hamburg, included the impact on travel behavior, equity and inclusivity, standardization, business models and the impacts on the environment. We’ve heard a number of new ideas for example, a framework for MaaS scheme indicators, user-centered trusts (a novel data-governance framework) and an improved algorithm to solve the problem of integrating autonomous vehicles into conventional public transport.

“Sessions, papers and a vigorous discussion at the ITS national associations meeting showed the overall progress has been steady, but it is inhibited by many non-technology challenges. For example, the complexity of bringing together many different stakeholders in many organizations, a lack of trust and the willingness to share data between, and among, the sector actors. Managing public subsidies and revenues is not easy when the value chain includes both public and commercial actors.

“And, let’s be honest, incumbent transport service suppliers are trying to block the launch of new ventures in a number of cases. And the public bodies are taking too long to update or remove regulations to respond to technology developments.

“Looking ahead, there are signs that the public authorities and the industry partners, accept the need to develop local organization to adapt the product development to include greater collaboration on the regulations before the event, not after, and encourage a more agile leadership.”

3. Goods Journeys – Ports to Customers

“This has often been the smallest topic at congresses, partly because the subject matter is so broad, and partly because the supply side has a great many small organizations.

“However, with COVID, affecting daily lives across the planet, this topic has taken center stage. Just think about it… it’s in the masks you’re wearing, the supplies and vaccines, the food delivered to your grocery store, and your local takeaway. Proof that ITS and logistics cannot work without each other. We cannot live without it.

“We had the best-ever response to the call for proposals. We had some lively sessions, including our first ever Global Forum, and discussions within the sector are steadily becoming more focused on digitalization and connectivity, but it still remains a fragile system overall. The component parts: loading from origin to ship; ship management; port internal management; port handling; delivery fleets; and last mile delivery, do not always connect well. Repairing this and speeding up the development of open platforms will continue to be a focus of collaborative work.”

Hamburg is one of Europe’s largest ports

4. Intelligent infrastructure

“A relatively recent concept, reflecting major advances in all the ITS technologies. There was much interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, new types of sensors, and algorithms to generate the intelligence that’s needed to support network operation.

“Connected vehicles and communications were big again. But this time with connection not just to road vehicles, but also traffic, rail and unmanned aerial systems.

“Vulnerable road users is a topic of much interest, especially with potential corporative ITS with pedestrians and cyclists.

“There were relatively few papers and sessions on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, digital twins and cybersecurity, but overall more papers on trials compared to technology innovations.

“There were some interesting innovations, for example, green-light optimal speed advice for buses, that incorporates the waiting at bus stops. Directional speakers to provide voice alerts, and simulation of routing strategies at an industrial park using drones.

“Overall, different countries are at different stages of using intelligent infrastructure. Some countries are cautiously trialling use cases, which they think might possibly benefit them. Other countries are way past trials and showcasing impact on the wider world, such as improved user interaction.

“But there’s a chicken and egg position – operators not investing in smart systems as too few vehicles are ready to use them. And the drivers of the vehicles aren’t being made aware of the benefits so they’re not buying them. Come on boys and girls – get organized!”

Hamburg city center

5. New Services from New Technologies

“There has been an intriguing shift in topic five. This is the smallest topic, possibly reflecting current trends of using technology to improve existing services and applications, rather than the creation of entirely new services.

“There were numerous business presentations, but the most popular for the papers and sessions was developments in urban air mobility. In general, the emphasis was concepts and business models for mobility in this third dimension, and integrating the ground traffic management and air traffic management.

“We had new approaches to traffic management and tolling using artificial intelligence and deep learning to manage signals and modeling simulations, were all presented with innovative solutions.

“Data Use was seen as an enabler of a new technology or service with several discussions on approaches to sharing and managing the data and the vital need for a collaborative business environment for sharing sector data.

“The newest presentations stressed the need to link to behavior and social impact and explored how to incorporate future mobility needs into town and city planning, which almost certainly needs new planning approaches and new tools for the planners.”

6. Solutions for Cities and Citizens

“This topic showcased some new thinking on designing policies based on technical papers focused on hardware and software solutions to reduce vehicle protection, but in general, not by diverting motorists to other traveling mode.

“A number address technology innovation to gather and analyze air quality and revision of vehicle emission data to support decisions on air quality policies.

“Road user charging has been a familiar topic for years, but discussion here was around real-time list and pricing, and time-based charging, which was once laughed at is being seriously studied in Hong Kong to address their circulation and parking problems.

“We heard about innovative methods of traffic distribution, such as real-time information dissemination and dynamic modelling, and incentives to nudge drivers into using roads or time periods, they might not otherwise consider. This dynamic incentivized trip-making is emerging as a way to you convince drivers it’s worth their while making a change.

“Papers and sessions discussed the components of a smart city solution which suggests that implementing a true smart-city vision is not yet realized. Thoughts identified as potentially contributing included making data-informed decisions to drive measurable outcomes, using dashboard style tools to show where problem areas are to help target the solutions. And the need for the planners, especially in cities to do more to understand what is actually happening on the ground.

“An ideal smart city would presumably rely on multimodal solutions, with travelers using the technologies to suit particular trips. It’s interesting that most papers focus on managing cars, traffic and congestion. Not much emphasis on mode shift.”

Sampson’s report was followed by the traditional, ceremonial passing of ‘the ITS World Congress globe’ to the next host organizers. ITS America will host the event in Los Angeles in 2022

Conclusion

“A marvelous week! Thousands of delegates enjoying a face-to-face event after months of screen watching. A major event has been delivered despite COVID. A speaker in one session I was at put rather well – he said I did experience ‘future mobility now’ in the sessions in the exhibitions and at demonstration sites.

“Despite COVID we’re further down the road than we were two years ago in Singapore. The road to the future is accessible, equitable, affordable, has zero fatalities, has zero emissions and is resilient and is seamless across continents.

“We’re not there yet. There are some difficult problems still to be solved. And we’d have to face it, some of them are about our behavior. If we want a better ecosystem, we need to cut back our personal ego systems.

“Smaller projects with exciting ideas are being developed and implemented rapidly everywhere. Some of the bigger more ambitious projects with potentially larger impact are slower moving. They are often constrained by excessive concerns on regulation, integration, competition, collaboration. Note, none of these as a technology barrier.

“You have seen the future this week. Unfortunately, as Ms Obama reminded us, it’s unevenly distributed across the globe. But we gain from sharing knowledge we learn from each other. I’ll close with the Chinese proverb – a single conversation is worth a month’s study of books. Join us next year in Toulouse and Los Angeles for the next progress reports.”

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About Author

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).