The highlights from the ITS World Congress in Melbourne

Dr Alan Stevens, IET Transport Policy Panel member and the Chief Scientist and Research Director for Transportation at TRL, gives an overview of the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress which took place in Melbourne, Australia in October 2016. Key topics at the Congress included Connected and Automated vehicles, Mobility as a Service, Big Data and Cyber Security. Demonstrated by Bosch at the Congress was a highly automated research vehicle launched based on a Tesla chassis with 6 radar, 6 lidar and several scene cameras, generating 1TB of data per day.

The 23rd World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) involved about 11,500 participants (2500 school and public) and around 300 exhibitors from more than 70 countries. With up to 20 parallel streams, it was clearly impossible to see everything although all papers and presentations are available online.                                               Pic of Koala  

The high calibre of speakers in the daily plenary sessions made for engaging, thought provoking presentations and discussions on emerging technology areas such as Connected and Automated vehicles, Mobility as a Service and Big Data. The exhibition, whilst relatively modest by World Congress standards was interesting and very well presented. It even included an Australian wildlife stand which for short periods was visited by native animals such as a kangaroo and koala. ITS Australia later reported feedback from exhibitors that they had unprecedented interest in their products and services. 14 demonstrators displayed the latest ITS developments and delegates were able to experience Australian technology on 17 technical tours. One notable demonstration was a highly automated (SAE Level 3) research vehicle launched by Bosch at the Congress based on a Tesla chassis. The vehicle has 6 radar, 6 lidar and several scene cameras and generates about 1TB of data per day.

One busy stand was that of the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI). This is a network which has grown to more than 80 partners mobilised by ARRB to ensure that Australia does not get left behind in the “driverless” world. A summary of their vision is: We believe driverless vehicles will deliver safer, easier & cheaper mobility for Australians of all generations and open up economic opportunity, foster innovation, and develop international competitiveness for Australia.

A key theme of this Congress was “Impact of disruptive technology” which is involving new stakeholders and business models, causing organisational change and prompting everyone to think differently about the future of surface transport.

As part of the Congress, there were a number of meetings and activities of different groups taking advantage of the gathered world experts. The International Task Force on Vehicle-Highway Automation, for example, held its 20th annual meeting on the Sunday before the Congress and attracted a high quality invited list of delegates. 2016 significant developments discussed included:

  • The formation of the Alliance for Connected and Automated Driving
  • Truck platooning, particularly the Dutch demonstration and the Declaration of Amsterdam
  • NHTSA policy guidance and acceptance of the SAE J 3016 automation levels
  • The Tesla fatality (accepted as inevitable and not stopping future developments)

Key future issues for attention in vehicle automation were identified including promoting user awareness & acceptance and developing validation processes.

IBEC, which is the ITS Benefit Evaluation Community (www.ibec-its.com), was prominent in Melbourne with a dedicated section in the programme. Activities at the congress included the launch of the IBEC book published by the IET, a brief Annual General Meeting and four special sessions dedicated to evaluation of different types of ITS services. The book “Evaluation of Intelligent Road Transport Systems: Methods and Results” was edited by Dr Meng Lu and has contributed chapters from a number of world experts on ITS evaluation.

Cybersecurity in connected and automated vehicles had a high profile at this Congress both with dedicated sessions and by being mentioned by many of the keynote speakers and in special and executive sessions. Connectivity was described as “the fourth technological revolution” following Looms, Mass production and Information Technology. Connectivity. With this come issues of security and trust and it was noted that without trust there is no business. As well as the obvious safety issues, there was an increasing concern also around privacy and data protection. The other now factor was an increasing mention of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the cybersecurity implications of integrating connected vehicles within a wider IoT landscape. One speaker predicted that whilst the impact of the internet has been profound, the impact of IoT would be even broader and deeper.

There were many technical sessions and discussions on connected and automated vehicles. The UK was well represented in the presentations and it was clear that what is being trialled and developed in the UK compares well with elsewhere in the world.

Other prominent areas including discussions on realising the promise of big and open data. There were also some very interesting discussions on the role of Smartphones: On the one hand they fill a gap in terms of providing drivers with tools and resources to make their personal mobility quicker and safer with even road authorities developing apps to provide drivers with travel time, incident, detour and emergency information. On the other hand, the use of smart devices in vehicles has been strongly discouraged and, in many places banned, as this activity is widely considered a distraction to the driver.

Many awards were presented during the Congress to individuals and organisations for personal and technical achievements. The Diversity award, which was initialted and championed by ITS (UK) at the previous Congress in Bordeaux, was won by Transurban of Australia who manage the tolled road network. There was a lunchtime reception and award ceremony.

Future World Congresses will be Montreal (2017), Singapore (2018) and Copenhagen (2019). There will also be a European Congresses next year in Strasbourg.

With thanks to Dr Alan Stevens for this contribution.