A long overdue post, but it's definitely worth taking note of the European Commission's recent moves in the field of autonomous and connected vehicles.  The Commission published a Communication on its Strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) at the end of November last year, which targets large-scale commercial deployment of C-ITS from 2019.

The Strategy intends to ease the path towards widespread use of vehicles that can "talk" to each other and to transport infrastructure on the EU's roads.  The Commission's key goals in promoting these technologies are to improve road safety, traffic efficiency and driving comfort.

The Strategy identifies a number of priority areas, including:

  • avoiding fragmentation - the Commission wants to avoid a fragmented internal market, in order to ensure continuity and interoperability of C-ITS services in Europe (no mention is made of the impact of Brexit in this context...);
  • identifying common priorities - this supports the Commission's goal of continuity across the EU;
  • using a mixture of communication technologies - the Commission believes a hybrid communication approach will encourage variety and flexibility in C-ITS services;
  • security and data protection - these are critical issues and the Strategy includes the development of a common EU security policy and specific actions to safeguard data privacy;
  • developing the right legal framework - the Commission believes a specific legal framework will help provide certainty to investors and other stakeholders; and
  • international cooperation - including projects and initiatives with the EU's international partners.

The first wave of C-ITS services is expected to include warnings about traffic, roadworks and emergency vehicles, weather notifications, in-vehicle speed limit signage, and advice on optimal speed for green lights.

The Commission recognises that its Strategy is a first step and work will need to intensify over the coming months.  An important part of this is the adoption of an appropriate legal framework at EU level by 2018.  It's encouraging to see the Commission prioritising information security and data privacy as it sets about establishing this framework.

We'll need to wait for further details of how the Commission's proposed legal framework will interact with the EU's other initiatives in these areas, including the General Data Protection Regulation and the Network and Information Security Directive (both due to come into force in 2018).  We'll also have to see whether the Commission can achieve the huge coordination effort required to bring together Member States, manufacturers, infrastructure operators, telecoms providers and other stakeholders to achieve its target, while simultaneously dealing with the exit from the EU of one of the most autotech-oriented Member States.  This is a massive endeavour, and one the Commission clearly thinks is worthwhile to place the EU at the forefront of new vehicle technologies.