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Shaping Europe’s digital future

Key technologies to boost the digitalisation of transport

Accelerating the digitisation of mobility requires boosting the research and deployment of key enabling technologies.

    interior of a car equipped with digital dashboard

© image by metamorworks - Getty / iStock

Through Horizon 2020, the EU provided support to numerous innovative research and innovation projects, developing and testing new transport solutions. Support is continuing with the funding programmes under the 2021-2027 long-term budget, with an emphasis on deployment.

“Digital technologies have the potential to revolutionise the way we move, making our mobility smarter, more efficient, and also greener.”

Adina Vălean, Commissioner for Transport

Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM)

To enable the adoption of automated vehicles, the European Commission will implement a legal framework for their approval. Building on achievements under Horizon 2020 (see example below), the Commission will support research and innovation to make Europe a world leader in CAM systems and services. The Horizon Europe Partnership Connected, Cooperative and Automated Mobility will receive a €500 million contribution.

Cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS), which allow the exchange of information among vehicles, and between vehicles and the road infrastructure, are crucial for the deployment of CAM. They are expected to improve road safety, traffic efficiency and comfort. The deployment of C-ITS will benefit from Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme support from 2021-202.

'Autopilot' testing site event in Livorno in 2018.
Credit: Autopilot

The AUTOPILOT project, which ran from 2017 to 2020, focused on piloting the use of IoT devices for automated driving in real conditions. AUTOPILOT opens the way for innovative commercial services associated with self-driving vehicles. Receiving an investment of approximately €20 million, the project highlighted the importance of digital technologies in improving the abilities of self-driving vehicles in better understanding their environment, and complementing IoT sensors. For example, the use of IoT can improve safety by detecting obstacles beyond line of sight.

5G connectivity

5G is a crucial enabler for automated vehicles and digitalised trains. To prepare the deployment of 5G corridors across Europe, ambitious cross-border corridor trial projects with CAM use cases are being conducted for different transport modes in various locations.

By 2025, the EU aims to have an uninterrupted 5G coverage of major transport paths across Europe. This target is supported financially by the Connecting Europe Facility programme and the Resilience and Recovery Facility, with a focus on cross-border corridors (CEF) and national sections (RRF and CEF). Combined with private investment and other public funding sources, they will contribute to achieving full 5G coverage by 2030, for safe and connected travel across Europe.

A map of the 5G cross-border corridors for connected and automated mobility across Europe.

Focusing on the Bologna-Munich corridor (600km over three countries), the Horizon 2020-funded project 5G-CARMEN aims to leverage the most recent advances in 5G to help the automotive sector deliver safer, greener, and smarter transportation, the goal of enabling self-driving cars. The key innovations are centred around developing an autonomously managed hybrid network, combining direct short-range vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications with long-range vehicle-to-network (V2N) communications, bringing together leading European car manufacturers, mobile network operators, telecom vendors, road operators and research centres.

A digital corridor for the mobility of the future.
Credit: 5G-CARMEN

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence has countless applications for transport: automated vehicles, optimised charging and battery use for electric vehicles, improved itineraries for passengers and transport of goods, support for the planning or transport infrastructure and services, and the deployment of charging stations.

In April 2021, the Commission proposed the Artificial Intelligence Act, which identifies high-risk AI systems and sets requirements to comply with. This includes systems exerting safety functions in several mobility areas, including cars, civil aviation, and marine equipment. The Act will be complemented by specific requirements for these areas.

Several research and innovation projects applying AI in the field of transport have been and will be supported by EU funding. Under DIGITAL, Testing and Experimentation Facilities (TEF) enable research into novel AI-driven solutions in close to real-life environments. In this context, TEF for smart communities could benefit solutions related to mobility.

Semiconductors

As shown by the major impact of the semiconductor shortage on industries like car manufacturing, having sufficient capacities in the field of electronics is key for the resilience of supply chains and Europe’s sovereignty and competitiveness.

The Commission adopted the European Chips Act package in February 2022. It aims to strengthen Europe’s semiconductor ecosystem and address shortages. It will create an attractive investment environment, reinforce Europe’s technological leadership along the semiconductor value chain and mobilise investments of more than €43 billion by 2030.

The Industrial Alliance for Processors and Semiconductor Technologies, and a possible important project of common European interest in microelectronics and connectivity, help unite EU forces.

The Chips Joint Undertaking will support research and innovation by pooling public and private investments, building on the achievements of its predecessor ECSEL (see examples below). These investments also target user industries like the transport and automotive sector, notably through an initiative on an open automotive hardware platform.

Examples of projects funded under the ECSEL Joint Undertaking

Autodrive vehicle
Credit: Autodrive
AutoDrive, with a total investment of €68 million, developed advanced fail-aware, fail-safe and fail-operational electronic components, systems, and architectures for highly and fully automated driving. It helped to make future mobility safer, more efficient, affordable, and acceptable for end-users. Deliverables include fully assembled vehicle prototypes, an automated bus, improved road scanning, new active safety features, and contributions to the standardisation and certification of automated driving systems.

 

Open European software-defined vehicle platform

Software is playing an increasingly important role in managing the operations of vehicles and enabling new features. The shift to software-defined vehicles is creating challenges for the leadership and competitiveness of the European automotive industry, which faces new powerful global competitors and issues in software development.

The Commission has initiated a pre-competitive EU-driven collaboration on non-differentiating elements of the vehicle software stack. This initiative is supported by a governance workstream involving major EU automotive companies and by investments under the Key Digital Technologies joint undertaking. It will allow participants to achieve greater efficiencies and faster time-to-market, while ensuring a level playing field. It will closely align with the initiative on an open automotive hardware platform. For more information, consult the dedicated concept paper.

Cybersecurity

The greater reliance on digital infrastructures and services of mobility increases the importance of cybersecurity. The EU's Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive) aims to achieve a high level of common network and information system security across the EU's critical infrastructure.

The revised Directive on measures for high common level of cybersecurity across the Union (NIS 2), and a new Directive on the resilience of critical entities, address both cyber and physical resilience of critical entities and networks, including transport infrastructure. DIGITAL supports the deployment of a cybersecurity infrastructure, strengthen the EU’s cybersecurity industry, and boost cybersecurity uptake and the implementation of EU legislation.

Accelerating the adoption of digital technologies

For mobility and transport companies, especially smaller ones, succeeding in their digital transformation can be a real challenge. Supported under DIGITAL, European Digital Innovation Hubs (EDIHs) function as one-stop shops, supporting companies in their digitalisation. They aim to provide access to technical expertise and experimentation, the possibility to 'test before invest' and innovation services, such as financial advice, training, and skills development. They also tackle environmental issues like energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions.

Digital skills

As transport and mobility undergo significant changes, not least due to technological transformation and access to data, there is a need for both reskilling and upskilling of the workforce. The EU has adopted targets, launched actions and proposed recommendations to Member States to equip workers with required digital skills and train more ICT specialists. For example, the European Digital Skills and Jobs Platform, under CEF, aims to become a unique reference point for digital skills, enabling all Europeans to make the most of the digital transformation of our society and economy.  

Main EU actions supporting the digitalisation of mobility.<br />
European Commission:<br />
Horizon Europe (research & innovation) with CAM, multimodal transport systems, cloud-edge-IoT initiative, key digital tech, testing & validation of tech through mobility use cases.<br />
DIGITAL with common European data spaces (incl. mobility), cloud-edge infrastructure & services, AI TEFs, EDIHs.<br />
CEF with deploying ITS services and coordination between NAPs, deploying 5G corridors, EU digital skills & jobs platform.<br />
Member States:<br />
RRF with investment in sustainable transport & charging stations, cloud capacities & sustainable processors, national sections of 5G corridors, support to digital skills.

 

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