Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


VRA — Result In Brief

Project ID: 610737
Funded under: FP7-ICT
Country: Belgium
Domain: Transport, Information and communication technology

Driverless vehicles are the future of road transport

From Bavaria in Germany and Trikala in Greece to Versailles in France and Gothenburg in Sweden, automated cars are currently being tested around Europe as part of the upcoming transport revolution. Driverless vehicles are expected to bring numerous benefits to society.
Driverless vehicles are the future of road transport
The future of road transport is heading towards driverless vehicles, a development that is slated to make roads safer, less congested and more environmentally friendly. As many as 30 million automated or partially automated vehicles are expected to be sold in 2035, with an expected reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 60 %.

The recent EU-funded support action VRA (Vehicle and Road Automation network) has contributed significantly to furthering research and development on driverless vehicles. ‘Automation helps solve societal problems, addressing road safety, multimodality, pollution, jobs and competitiveness,’ says Dr Maxime Flament, coordinator of the VRA project.

To achieve this, VRA established a cooperation network involving different research and stakeholder communities who met and exchanged their views on vehicle and road automation. ‘This represents the next revolution in road transport and a new paradigm shift. It may turn good or bad depending on how it’s introduced,’ says Dr Flament. ‘By simply putting new automation technologies in the vehicles you can save lives of both drivers and pedestrians.’

Apart from increased safety and less pollution, palpable advantages for users include more predictable and less expensive journeys, seamless transport, increased mobility for ageing populations and more free time to engage in other activities.

However, while the automation technology is getting radically better and ready for the road, several key considerations and challenges must first be addressed. ‘Firstly, we must conduct a more thorough impact assessment of these new technologies to see how they impact safety, road efficiency, personal mobility, land use and travel behaviour,’ underlines Dr Flament. ‘The impact may be huge but policy makers need to know how big this is, and it’s not something you can decide on your own but must be established at European level, especially since the decisions we take today will affect where we’ll be 10 years from now.’

Another important consideration is the human factor inherent in connected, automated driving. ‘We must fully study interaction between vehicles, and other manual drivers, establishing what’s acceptable for the vehicle occupant such as being allowed to nap or watching a video,’ clarifies Dr Flament.

Studying road worthiness and validating the safety of the vehicles is of pivotal importance as well, as is knowing what digital infrastructure is required to operate these vehicles. ‘Do we need accurate digital street maps? What traffic information do vehicles require to operate safely? What signs, speed limits and road markings are required?’ asks Dr Flament to illustrate the depth of considerations. Moreover, the appropriate regulatory environment must also be established in each EU Member State in order for such a paradigm shift to take place.

VRA has investigated these pivotal topics that surround automated driving, along with cloud computing, big data analytics, the internet of things, wireless technology, artificial intelligence and security. ‘All these technologies coming from the IT sector will be exploited to advance automation in transport, and all have reached a good level of maturity required for adoption,’ reveals Dr Flament.

Overall, VRA successfully mapped the considerations, mechanisms and associated technologies required for driverless vehicles. The project’s outcomes are now being exploited by follow-up projects, including the EU-funded project CARTRE (Coordination of automated road transport deployment for Europe). These projects are identifying how all these challenges can be overcome and who will address them, in addition to overseeing coordination and knowledge transfer among research initiatives and test bed sites. All these enterprising initiatives leave no room for doubt about the future of automated road transport.


Driverless vehicles, road transport, VRA, road automation, automated driving, artificial intelligence, ITS
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