EXCLUSIVE: “ITS on the cusp of monumental change” as World Congress opens in Copenhagen

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The 25th ITS World Congress opened yesterday (September 17) at the Bella Center in Copenhagen (above), with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by the event’s patron Frederik, the Crown Prince of Denmark. Road safety was a focus for many speakers at the formal start to a week of events and the ceremony also featured the presentation of this year’s ITS Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The Crown Prince (below) took to the stage early in proceedings to welcome a packed hall with a few words, highlighting the fact that improving quality of life for individuals should always be one of the main drivers behind mobility innovation. A sentiment that was echoed later by other speakers.

Ken Leonard (below), director of the USDOT’s ITS Joint Program Office, followed up stating that, “ITS is on the cusp of monumental change.” Before outlining the three connected vehicle pilot projects underway in the USA in Tampa, Florida; Wyoming; and New York City. He said that achieving long-term goals in the sector had “never been more tangible and in reach than it is now. I hope at this Congress we have the opportunity to advance them even further.”

Violeta Bulc (below), the European Commission’s commissioner for transport, then spoke eloquently about the need for greater cooperation in order to achieve the key aims of ITS – particularly in improving safety. “The fourth industrial revolution is calling us to work together,” she said. “We need to work together on standards and regulatory alignment. We want to foster the way forward for a modern society based on democratic values. We have a lot of work to do. Technology can help us but should never drive. Inclusion will be one of the major challenges in bringing together all parts of the world. We need to think not just about smart cities, but smart villages as well, to ensure a sustainable future for this beautiful planet.”

“In the EU we have nearly 30,000 road deaths a year – and we are supposed to be the best in the world. I hope this is a good motivation to engage and change. We have a clear Vision Zero by 2050 – we want no fatalities and no serious injuries on our roads by then.”

Jean Todt, former CEO of Ferrari and now UN special envoy for road safety, was the next special guest, who pointed to education being as equally important as technology for reducing road casualties. He said that existing safety features such as seatbelts could still save many more lives if they were used more often.

After a musical interlude in which a theatre troupe (above) updated a fairytale by Denmark’s most famous author Hans Christian Andersen, incorporating references to ITS and mobility challenges, the time had come for the Lifetime Achievement Awards. 

The three honors were bestowed by the respective heads of the three main ITS organizations – ITS America, ITS Asia-Pacific, and ERTICO-ITS Europe. Shailen Bhatt, Hajime Amano and Jacob Bangsgaard gave the awards to Paul Kompfner, Dr Kent Kwo-Tsai Wang and Jeff Paniati. Kompfner (below) called the honor, “An enormous, but very welcome, surprise.” 

The ceremony closed as it had begun, with The Crown Prince of Denmark on the stage. This time his job was simply to cut the ribbon that symbolically declared the event open.

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.

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