Intelligent Transport Systems

The European Commission has proposed a Directive designed to accelerate the development of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in road transport. ITS is the application of advanced information and communication technologies in transport to improve safety and energy-efficiency and reduce transport times.


The Commission believes that growing pressures on Europe’s transport system, such as the expected increase in passenger road transport by 36 % by 2020, require innovative approaches. It says that traditional measures such as the expansion of existing transport networks are no longer feasible in isolation. Take-up of ITS solutions in road transport, however, has been slower than the Commission expected. As a consequence inefficient use has been made of ITS, says the Commission, something that it now wants to address.

The Commission highlighted traffic congestion, energy security and climate change as the major challenges for transport in the EU in the revision of the White Paper on Transport Policy in 2006. The Communication on Greening Transport, (COM 2008(433), adopted by the Commission in July 2008, provided for an Action Plan for Road, to be accompanied  by a legislative initiative, setting out a common approach on how to get existing technologies onto the market and in use. This proposal is the legislative approach.

Proposal Objectives

The proposal’s goal is to contribute towards more efficient and environmentally friendly freight and passenger transport in the EU. It aims to do this by establishing a framework to coordinate the deployment and use of intelligent transport systems within the EU.

Reasons for a Directive

The Commission says that while the self-regulatory approach pursued so far by industry in accelerating the development of ITS is not sufficient, a Regulation would be too prescriptive, considering that many of the required actions for the deployment of ITS may vary from country to country. The Commission believes therefore that a Directive is the most appropriate instrument, as this will allow Member States to adjust the framework according to their individual needs.


Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) cover systems in which information and communication technologies are applied in support of road transport. This can include items of communication or information equipment used within vehicles such as a mobile phone or navigation system or platforms that enable the deployment, provision or exploitation of ITS applications and services.

The selection and deployment of ITS applications and services will be based on the following principles: 

• Effectiveness: the ability to make a significant contribution towards solving the key challenges affecting road transportation in Europe 
• Cost-efficiency
• Geographical continuity: the ability to ensure seamless services across the EU
• interoperability: the ability of systems to exchange data and to enable information and knowledge to be shared
• The level of development

Role of the Commission

The Directive also specifies that the Commission will define specifications for the deployment and use of ITS, in particular in the following priority areas:

• Optimal use of road, traffic and travel data 
• Continuity of traffic and freight management ITS services on European Transport Corridors and in conurbations 
• Road safety and security
• Integration of the vehicle into the transport infrastructure

The Commission will also establish a Committee, to be called the European ITS Committee (EIC). This Committee will be composed of representatives of Member States and chaired by a representative of the Commission. The Commission would also be advised by a new European ITS Advisory Group on business and technical aspects of the deployment and use of ITS in the EU. This group would be composed of high level representatives from relevant ITS service providers, associations of users, transport and facilities operators and local authorities.

Role of Member States

Under the proposed Directive, Member States must take measures necessary to ensure the coordinated deployment and use of interoperable ITS applications and services within the EU.

They must:

• Ensure that reliable and regularly updated relevant road transport data is made available to ITS users and ITS service providers
• Ensure that road traffic and travel data can be exchanged between the competent traffic information and control centres in different Member States
• Take necessary measures to integrate safety and security-related ITS systems into vehicles and road infrastructure 
• Take necessary measures to integrate different ITS applications, involving the exchange of information and communication between vehicles and the road infrastructure, within a single platform

Member States will also be obliged to submit to the Commission, two years after the entry into force of this Directive at the latest, plans for national ITS actions over the following five years. Member States will also have to report annually on the progress made in the implementation of these plans. Finally, they will be obliged to bring into force laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 24 months after its entry into force the latest.