EP highlights the pros and cons of Intelligent Transport Systems

The Transport Committee discussed on January, 22nd  legislative proposals to set up Intelligent Transport Systems, which will link travellers, vehicles and road infrastructure via new communication technology throughout Europe. Although MEPs and experts considered the benefits for sustainable transport, in terms of less congestion and fewer accidents, they also pointed out some possible problems relating to data protection.

Danish MEP Anne E. Jensen, who will draft the committee's report on the proposed directive on the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in road transport, highlighted the benefits of those systems which will secure more efficient transport, a better flow of transport, greener and safer transport, also stressing the fact that Europe should “focus on how we could actually ease the life of lorry drivers driving down through Europe”, but not ending up with “a surveillance society”.

Hermann Meyer of the public-private partnership ERTICO-ITS which is developing intelligent transport systems and services, stressed that the new systems will optimise traffic flow. The system will allow, for instance, traffic lights to change to the green light when they detect a vehicle arriving to an intersection, or the car to intervene if a driver approaches a red light without noticing it. The system would also allow a car to automatically share with other drivers the information about an icy road whenever it detects these conditions.

Although acknowledging the benefits of such technologies, some MEPs showed their concern about the possibility of people relying too much "this sort of autopilot of the car" and losing the skill to drive it themselves.

eCall system and digital maps to save lives

Parliament and the Commission wanted eCall by 2010 as standard equipment, said Deutsch MEP Dieter-Lebrecht Koch asking if that would still be feasible. "What we need is an understanding between the Member States and the vehicle industry concerning a roadmap to introduce the system in the infrastructure", answered Mr Meyer.
There was also a discussion of data protection issues related to this kind of technological developments. "Getting this right is a critical success condition for the development of Intelligent Transport Systems", underlined European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx. In his view it is essential making data and privacy protection "part of development, implementation and deployment so that there is 'privacy by design' to the extent possible".