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THE VIEW From Technology Creation to Deployment André Vits


Real-time traffic information: the devil is in the detail


André Vits is the former Head of Unit of the European Commission’s DG INFSO andre.vits@skynet.be


being it road, rail or other means of transport. His commitment is to operate an efficient and safe service, and information is part of the means he has to achieve this objective. Broadcasters have long been key


T


partners in providing the information over the air. Many traffic control centres, for example those on the French motorways, have a broadcasting studio at the centre itself, thus assuring almost immediate information of specific traffic situations. In the US, private (and therefore commercial) and oſten local broadcasting stations emerged with the objective to provide traffic information, not only by diffusing the available traffic information, but by collecting real-time data through their audience or other means. Also from the outset, user


organisations have played, and still do play, a major role in the collection and dissemination of traffic information. ARC Europe1


, today an all-round


service company, operates a platform for traffic information exchange among its partners, in particular the national automobile clubs that were at the origin of the company. As Internet usage took off and


portable devices became widespread, opportunities emerged for new actors to enter the real-time traffic information (RTTI) services market. Access to data, and in particular real-time information of the traffic situation held by the operators and in many cases by public authorities, has always been a subject of


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raffic information has always been considered as the task of the one who operates a service,


debate. From a service provider’s view, the more data the better. From this data, he can develop applications adapted to the specific needs of his customers or interested parties, i.e. for freight transport and delivery services, tourists, etc. Te operator, on his side, has to consider the impact of opening his data sets to third parties, not only related to safety data, but also operational and tactical information: should an alternative route be recommended if one knows it doesn’t have the necessary capacity. Te Netherlands was the first European country to give fee access to its datasets under reasonable commercial conditions. Te town of Reading, UK, is putting in place an open data platform to facilitate the development of traffic info apps. Te EC, under the eSafety research


programme, provided a platform2 where the stakeholders could discuss the issues and find compromises. From these discussions, a number of priorities for the development of RTTI services emerged, taking into account the specificities of the different Member States and regions. Te ITS Directive3


has taken up


the issue of RTTI services as one of Actions in its priority list. Recently, two Regulations have been adopted by the EC and put forward to Parliament and


NOTE 1 http://www.arceurope. com/en/onepage.aspx


2 eSafety, Working Group on RTTI 3 Directive 2010/40/EU 4 C(2013) 2550 final of 15/5/2013 5 C(2013) 2549 final of 15/5/2013


thinkinghighways.com


Council for adoption. Te one related to real-time warnings about dangerous road conditions ahead4


and the other


on safe and secure parking places for truck drivers5





Although the ambition of interoperable services has to be welcomed, the vast majority of trips take place over short distances


❞ . Te information services


should be interoperable and compatible across Europe, and available to as many drivers as possible along the trans- European road network, free of charge. Although the new regulations do


not make the roll-out of information services mandatory, they define a number of requirements to which these systems should comply: specific events are defined, the use of DATEX protocol of equivalent is made mandatory, services operators are required to sign a declaration confirming the compliance with the Regulation, a national contact point should be established and Member States are requested to report on an annual basis! From a user perspective, access


to real-time traffic information has become a necessity in planning the journey. As congestion of the network(s) is more and more frequent, travel times are highly unpredictable and most drivers depend on traffic information services. Pick-up services have predetermined schedules and adherence is critical for their operation. Public transport operators, when informing their passengers of a delay, oſten omit to inform on the reason of the delay. Although the ambition of


interoperable services has to be welcomed, the vast majority of trips take place over rather short distances and traffic information should not only provide information on the major road system (eg motorways), but the whole network, in so far as the information is relevant to the journey itself.


Vol 8 No 3 Europe/Rest of the World


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