The Digitalization of the Transport Sector is one of the key objectives of the European Commission. In order to take the digital agenda in transport further, the European Commission launched on 1st July 2015 the Digital Transport and Logistics Forum (DLTF). The Forum aims at further supporting digitalisation of freight transport and logistics. It brings together Member States and stakeholders from all transport and logistics communities with the aim to identify challenges and areas where common action in the EU is needed, to provide recommendations, and to work on the implementation of these recommendations where appropriate. The Forum shall assist the Commission in implementing the Union’s activities and programmes aimed at fostering more efficient exchange of electronic information in transport and logistics, with the objective of removing technical, operational and administrative barriers between and within transport modes. The Forum shall provide a platform for structural dialogue, exchange of technical knowledge, cooperation, and coordination between the Commission, Member States, and relevant transport and logistics stakeholders. Task of the group is to provide advice and technical expertise to the Commission and its services in relation to the preparation of legislative proposals and policy initiatives in the field of digital transport and logistics, as well as in their implementation.
As highlighted by the European Commission, indeed, in transport, digitalization can significantly improve traffic and transport management through more accurate information on traffic and infrastructure conditions and on the location of vehicles and/or goods. Better access to and sharing of digital transport (traffic, travel, vehicle, cargo etc.) data for both public and private stakeholders along the supply chain can foster seamless information flows, and open up a wide range of new business opportunities:
- Shippers would benefit from better information on available transport services.
- Factories would have information on goods arrival time to optimise their inventory management and production.
- Logistics service providers would be able to optimise transport operations in real-time and to react to unexpected events.
- Public authorities could benefit from more accurate and reliable information on infrastructure use and cargo, thereby contributing to better efficiency and operational safety of networks.
- The development of information pipelines along the TEN-T Corridors would enable continuity and integration of services as well as facilitate administrative requirements through one stop shops and easy access and sharing of data.
The European Commission, through its Horizon 2020 funding programme, stimulates research, development and innovation and gives a real boost to European transport research and development.
Just observing recent call for proposals, it can be seen how important this topic is. To name but a few H2020 call for proposals over the past two years:
- CALL: 2016-2017 MOBILITY FOR GROWTH. TOPIC: Innovative ICT solutions for future logistics operations where the focus is developing electronic booking and planning systems for freight; identifying opportunities for increased availability of freight data; developing algorithms to increase both load factors and optimise the planned delivery route; developing event management systems
- CALL: 2016-2017 MOBILITY FOR GROWTH. TOPIC : Potential of the Physical Internet. The Internet of Things for example, which could link every future container, load unit or parcel to the internet, can be considered a pre-requisite for the Physical Internet to work as there will be an increased need to track all goods in a freight environment lacking a fixed and known transport route. The main challenge is to model a future Physical Internet network topology and assess the benefits it could generate in terms of carbon footprint, throughput times and cost reductions.
- CALL: 2016-2017 AUTOMATED ROAD TRANSPORT. Here the main contribution of this call will be to support the short term introduction of passenger cars automated driving level 3 (Conditional Automation – Full driving performed by an automated driving system with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene in real traffic conditions)
- CALL: 2016-2017 AUTOMATED ROAD TRANSPORT. TOPIC : Road infrastructure to support the transition to automation and the coexistence of conventional and automated vehicles on the same network addressing new methods of traffic flow modelling depending from the introduction of automated vehicles; design, upgrading and adaptation of “hybrid” infrastructure (able to take into account the coexistence of fully or partially automated (connected or autonomous) and conventional vehicles); required forms of visual and electronic signalling and optical guidance, ensuring readability by both automated and conventional vehicles, and enabling automated driving in also adverse road weather conditions etc.
As can be noted, there are plenty of options in the Horizon 2020 programmes which promote the transport digitalization. Anyone with an interest in this topic is invited to acquaint himself with the upcoming 2018-2020 H2020 work programme.