IBM: Europe’s Roads Can Be Smarter and Greener


The IT giant says that technology can help solve some of Europe’s traffic problems but there are also privacy issues to consider according to European regulators

IBM says it is working with partners to help develop systems to reduce congestion on European roads and avoid the wasted time and energy associated with traffic jams and congestion.

In a statement, IBM said that it is partnering with companies such as Trafficmaster to develop technology to help motorists spend less time stuck in jams and to more accurately predict journey times.

Systems such as Trafficmaster’s SmartNav route-planning tool, combined with mobile applications provided by operator 02, and making use of information compiled in IBM-drive databases are being combined to help commercial and private drivers to hopefully avoid traffic or at least know when it’s coming.

“Cities everywhere are battling with stressed transportation networks,” said Doug Wilson, client manager, IBM UK. “This is an enormous problem with nearly 300 million drivers in Europe, traffic congestion costs the EU around euro 100 billion each year. To help address this issue in the UK, IBM is partnering with Trafficmaster to take a smarter approach to motoring by analysing data and unlocking trends to intelligently plan journeys. This has a positive impact on the driver, society, and the environment.”

TrafficMasters’ technology includes SmartNav, described as “an intelligent route-finding service” that is fitted as standard in Citroen light commercial vehicles for example. The system uses satellite navigation and live traffic information to find routes and suggest alternatives if heavy traffic is detected.

However, despite the increasing sophistication and popularity of satellite navigation systems, Europoean authorities have expressed concern about how data may be collected and used without driver’s explicit knowledge.

The European Data Protection Supervisor recently warned that diverse data protection rules across Europe could introduce problems when it comes to regulating the information associated with so-called intelligent transport systems (ITS).

In a statement, EDPS Peter Hustinx said that although the European Commission has considered data protection as part of its plan to support the deployment of intelligent transport systems (ITS) in Europe, some of the considerations of the authority are “too broad and too general”.

“There is a risk that the lack of clarity of the proposed legal framework will create diversity in the implementation of intelligent transport systems and will lead to considerable uncertainty, fragmentation and inconsistencies, due to different levels of data protection in Europe,” he said. “Further harmonisation of data protection issues at EU level is needed so that the many benefits offered by those systems are not hampered by a lack of compliance with essential safeguards for data protection.”