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Cooperative systems: the Dutch view

Mr Geert Draijer and Mr Martin Van Gelderen, senior policy advisors at the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, and Mr Gerben Bootsma, Innovation Programme Manager at Rijkswaterstaat, talked to us about the Dutch policy framework and the implementation roadmap for cooperative systems in their country.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: Why does your Ministry have an interest in Cooperative Systems?

We believe that in the future, cooperative systems can make a substantial contribution to easing congestion, improving traffic safety, reducing the environmental impact of traffic and delivering a better service to the road user.

In general, large parts of the Dutch road system are under high stress. The road capacity is insufficient for the demand of traffic, resulting in much congestion and unreliable travel times (and thus economic loss). Over the years, the Netherlands has invested substantially in policy measures aimed at the best possible handling of traffic demand over the road infrastructure network.

For example, a total of about 1100 km of the total of 3500 km length of national highways is equipped with roadside systems to support drivers with accident warnings, and to guide traffic flows (on a gantry every 700 meters). There are also hundreds of electronic road message signs to inform drivers, for example about the expected travel time to a next point, or to inform them of alternative routes. This whole dynamic traffic management system is operated by a national traffic control centre, and several regional or local centres.

These roadside instruments, however, do have a number of limitations or drawbacks that may not apply for in-car or cooperative systems. Roadside systems for example cannot provide personalised information, based on a travellerís destination. Furthermore, the annual costs for operating and maintenance of the roadside systems amount to roughly 10% of the initial investment cost, adding up to hundreds of millions of euros per year. If the policy target of e.g. better traffic flow or better safety could be achieved in a more cost-effective way, it would be very welcome.

New technologies emerge and in some cases reach a point where they are so mature that they can offer an alternative to roadside systems. For example stimulating the take-up of vehicle-based driver assistance systems such as advanced adaptive cruise control could be a cost effective alternative to further development of roadside warning signs. In the Netherlands, the guidance of traffic is already influenced by in-car navigation devices that have seen a very rapid development. Travellers may see different advice displayed at the roadside than that appearing on their in-car system display. But the in-car system will guide the driver during the entire journey from door to door, based on personalised preferences. Therefore the effectiveness of the roadside systems is reduced. This may especially give problems when road authorities implement traffic guidance scenarios and the advice from the navigation device is no longer valid. Consistency between public and private information systems is important: e.g. in-vehicle safe-distance keeping advice that is not consistent with the road capacity in case of congestion, is a point of discussion between car makers and road authorities. Cooperative systems can help resolve these potential conflicts. Added to that, the most vulnerable parts of the network are already equipped with roadside systems.

Especially in the Dutch case where roadside systems are so well developed already, we feel that it is necessary to combine the development of in-car information services with the traffic management demands from road authorities. The Netherlands follows the development of cooperative systems closely and participates in the CVIS, SAFESPOT and COOPERS European R&D projects Ė we have made an offer to host a cooperative systems showcase in Amsterdam in 2010 to present the results of these projects.

Underlying this discussion is the question of how to deal with traffic management in the future. Traditionally this area was dominated by road authorities, where traffic is optimised over the network of the road operator (e.g. highways). This is now strongly influenced by the market parties that are able to inform and support a driver with alternatives. This advice also includes guidance for the parts of a trip over local and regional road authoritiesí networks (e.g. municipalities, provinces etc.). This is where many congestion problems arise in peak hour traffic, with many short distance trips (<15 km).  Good cooperation between different road authorities and private parties is essential to prevent undesired side effects on traffic safety or local air quality.

However the role for the road authority is still very important, especially in the case of large traffic disturbances (accidents, maintenance, etc.), where its information provision has to be extended to the market parties or service providers that can implement this information in their travel advice and navigation devices. These private parties determine how traffic information is diffused because they provide the information to users. But the road authorities would like to play a guiding role within a good working relationship with the industry, in order to serve both the traveller and the community. The multiple parties involved need to be coordinated in the most cost-effective way, working together at strategic level to avoid independent developments in all directions. This is an organisational rather than technological issue.

This discussion is described more in depth in a Dutch policy document "Policy framework for utilisation", that was published on 4 January 2008.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: Is there going to be an update of this policy document?

Certain points like the action line and the traffic information (cooperation government/private) need to be further elaborated, which we are working on right now.

ERTICO - ITS Europe:  The EC has recently published the EU ITS Action Plan on deployment  and draft directive for its implementation. Do you see any links between the Dutch National Policy on Cooperative systems and the EU ITS Action Plan?

The ITS Action Plan lists a number of important issues. Coordinated action in Europe is essential for a successful implementation of ITS. Without common standards, agreements on data provision and interoperability, the promises of ITS cannot be realised.

The Action Plan is a good starting point for next steps, but there are a number of issues that need to be discussed further. To mention a few:

We would like to see a high-level ITS group in Europe where both authorities and commercial parties together are represented. This group should work out the action plan, prioritise the actions and agree on next steps.


Together with the action plan, the Commission presented a draft directive. We believe that this is too early. We should be careful not to see ITS as solution for everything. We always have to keep in mind the underlying policy objectives and the costs vs. benefits. A directive is a very strong measure. There is a long list of issues to be discussed before jumping to regulations and directives. We first have to discuss more in detail what European action we really need, regulation is only one of the possible tools. There must be a good understanding of all parties, and the high-level ITS group is a good suggestion from EC to start.


In addition, the Action Plan is not fully in line with how the industry has been developing recently: technical standards are moving faster than deployment, so we first need to determine what are the early core services and infrastructure to be deployed in order to deliver them.

In the Dutch situation, as in many other countries, there is already extensive roadside equipment, and (changes in) the role for the road authority is not considered in the paper.

Also the resources reserved by the Commission are very limited in relation to the ambitions.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: Do you think ERTICO could be of help in being involved in this high-level ITS group?

Yes, ERTICO should be involved more deeply in forming a strategic alliance for Cooperative Systems deployment. With its mix of private and public partners, ERTICO should be used as a catalyst for a European initiative, i.e. a targeted action group for deploying cooperative systems including OEMs, telecom operators, service providers, etc, and play a role in getting all parties together. However, EASYWAY could have this leading role as they are already leading the way for other initiatives.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: How do you plan to cooperate with the regional authorities to have a harmonised national policy, for example in the case of Brabant?

There is already a national cooperation and exchange of "best practice". Working together inspires the participants in this leading group. Each region focuses on specific topics to avoid overlap. The central government supports this group and exchange of knowledge, helps with giving directions, and in some cases (co-) finances the experiments. Specifically the Brabant region has a strong automotive industry and is one of the major players.

There is a need for coordination of multiple parties in order to develop a common model that could be applied at EU level. There are several parties investing in infrastructure and the road authority should also invest more. Partners like TomTom are very cost-effective and active in personalised information for the onboard unit. For example, at the moment we need to open discussions with TomTom and the local authorities for the definition of the map speed limit and the use of local roads with heavy trucks. There is a need for integration in a larger national than just local context.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: Have you taken into consideration in the Dutch Policy Plan collaboration with neighbouring countries?

We have looked at a number of countries to learn from their ideas about traffic management and cooperative systems, not only in Europe, but also e.g. Japan and USA. We have taken into consideration the policy papers from other EU Member States, such as Germany, France and the UK. The Netherlands also participates in several European projects (CVIS Rotterdam-Antwerp test site, Centrico, COOPERS, SAFESPOT etc.)  that connect us to other European countries. Based on the bilateral agreement between the USA and the EC, cooperative cystems can play an important role in coordinating the different cooperation issues at international level.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: Do you envision other Member States following your example (the Dutch National Policy plan) and thus pave the way for a harmonised EU policy plan on cooperative systems?

Our national policy plan is the basis on which we work and where the national interests are represented. We hope that it will lead to real deployment in the Netherlands but this is still a work in progress, we still have to learn about certain things. So such an analysis could also be a good basis in other countries but we donít want to boast that this is the best approach. We are not ready to take the leading role while there is still harmonisation needed within our own country.

We would like to present the Dutch approach to other countries, but we do not intend to take a leading role at EU level. However we expect that the kind of questions that we face may be quite different from those in many other countries, especially when it comes down to the investment discussion about roadside versus in-car systems.

Road pricing was an original use case of CVIS though it was later deemed out of the projectís scope, but basically the CVIS platform could in theory support any type of road charging system. In this sense, CVIS could be a cooperative system enabler since road charging could come with a more attractive bundle of services.

Though this would indeed facilitate the introduction of road charging, the Ministry would only request that vehicles should be equipped with road charging units; it would be up to the service provider to propose other functionalities.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: What are the implications in real life of the Dutch National Policy on neighbouring countries? i.e. a Belgian / French / Luxembourg / German car travelling on Dutch roads equipped with road side units?

In this phase we are mainly seeking the (potential) applications that may be interesting to reach the policy goals. We are defining which ones are to be deployed early because of their positive business case. When a choice of instruments is made, the impact and implications on travellers from other countries are more relevant and can be determined much better.
This is an interesting exercise to be done at European and international level with other countries. The roadmap document being prepared by the Netherlands could be a discussion basis.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: In the national data warehouse (NDW), do you deal with issues such as data privacy?

In the NDW, we looked into the issue of data privacy, which is an important issue in the Netherlands. The NDW is owned by public authorities. The NDW consists only of anonymous public information about the traffic flow on road segments, with added status information about the availability of roads. The information is not linked to individual vehicles.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: Which are the core ITS systems of mutual interest to the Government and the Dutch traffic industry?

We have not made specific choices yet, but we are developing a roadmap in order to determine this choice. There is an interest in navigation systems (informing the driver) and driver support systems (increasing safety and possibly increase road capacity). This action is mentioned in the Dutch National Policy document. It is the number one action since we feel that it is one of the main areas for change in the coming years.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: What is the procurement process approach between government and stakeholders?

This roadmap is developed in cooperation between policy makers, road authorities, knowledge institutions and industry. It is important to keep in mind that both industry and (local) government are quite heterogeneous groups with sometimes different interests. We are looking into ways of working together more effectively and efficiently. To have a common understanding and vision on a roadmap is helpful for this. Itís not about technology only, but largely about defining responsibilities and organisational issues also.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: What are the possible PPP options that exist in the procurement procedures?

This depends on the specific application. Much is possible.

More generally a "travel information policy document" is under construction in the Netherlands. In this document, the roles of government and industry are discussed. As part of this document we find that there might be a need for a national high-level strategic working group to discuss changes in roles between government and market parties. This may be needed to address the discussions that arise from conflicts of interest between public and private parties. For example, the more detailed the information provided by the government, the less the possibilities for market parties to develop a profitable business case for travel information.

Traffic management centres should cooperate with onboard system manufacturers and discussions should take place in a pre-commercial way. But there is a public interest that at least a minimum level of information is provided to the traveller, and there are clear cases when a road authority should act (e.g. accidents). There may also be situations where all the combined individual travel optimums from market parties do not lead to an optimum for society as a whole (e.g. local routes that are unsuitable or cause exceptional distress to local inhabitants when they are used intensively). For the dialogue on a more tactical level the ITS Netherlands organisation (Connekt) is a good functioning structure.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: Rijkswatertstaat is a core partner in CVIS. How could the CVIS project results be beneficial for your national policy? How can CVIS applications support transport policy goals? Which policies are necessary for implementation of cooperative systems?

The CVIS project will show what is and what is not (yet) possible in Europe with communication technologies between vehicles and infrastructure. This will help us in defining concrete actions that can follow up the CVIS project. Our experiences in this project will help us move forward and see where we can progress. We hope CVIS will have a big impact on creating a common standard for communications. Technically, but also on an organisational level: what is to be organised and where?

ERTICO - ITS Europe: How can the Netherlands help ERTICO to communicate about CVIS?

First of all, there is a need to set up a dialogue with all major stakeholders involved in the CVIS platform development to define how best to set up real data which would help to solve the current problems. One of the solutions could be the development of a European ITS business model.

There is also a need for collaboration on field operational tests (FOTs) but from an organisational perspective, and the need for a common business model.

ERTICO - ITS Europe: What are the future activities in the Netherlands? Has the Dutch Government planned any future deployment activities at national/regional level or in collaboration with other Member States?

As mentioned, we are now working on a roadmap to help us make the investment decisions for new ITS applications. Part of this roadmap is a number of milestones that will help in organising all parties involved, and also provide a shared agenda between industry, government and knowledge institutions for the development of in-car and ITS services. So far, the orientation for the roadmap is primarily national, but we will match it with European ambitions, so that the power and effectiveness will be increased.


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Last modification: 01 February 2010


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