Autonomous driving technology opens up a wide range of scenarios and at the same time it raises more questions than any other innovation currently under consideration in the field of transport and mobility. It is not surprising that there is such complexity. With its enormous innovation potential and the expected beneficial effects on safety, efficiency and universal access to individual mobility, automated-driving vehicles can rightly be considered the archetype means of transport for the future.
The development of vehicles with automated driving systems could prove to be the biggest revolution in the field of personal mobility since the spread of mass motorisation after the Second World War.
The technology in question attracts a great deal of public interest, promising positive effects with high social value, including:
- an increase in road safety
- optimisation of traffic flows and a consequent reduction in fuel consumption and emissions
- easier access to individual mobility for certain vulnerable groups of society
- a considerable amount of freed up time
Human error is the most common cause of road accidents. Automated guided vehicles can avoid these errors by relying on a wide range of sensors that continuously monitor the surrounding environment. Already today with the spread of active safety systems, we have evidence of significant improvements in road safety.
When communicating with its surroundings and other road users the vehicles of the future (both connected and automated) also promises a better use of space and a consequent reduction in road congestion and travel times. More efficient and rational traffic flows will therefore make it possible to significantly reduce fuel consumption and overall emissions generated by the transport sector.
Automated driving technology will also improve the usability of individual mobility means for those who today, for different reasons (age, interest, ability), do not have access to them, making their quality of life significantly higher.
Finally, the high-performance automated vehicles may allow the driver to spend a large part or all of his travel time on activities other than driving, whether for leisure or work.
The speed with which manufacturers are making their automated driving systems available on the market requires equally rapid action by bodies and public institutions so that these new technologies can be developed in a controlled manner, provide a benefit in terms of road safety and reach their full potential in the not too distant future.
Automated driving technologies represent a significant area of interest and investment for the automotive industry globally. Vehicle manufacturers, system and component suppliers recognise the promising benefits they can offer and are running a variety of simulation and testing programmes on closed-track routes and circuits. The next step, both necessary and urgent, is to experiment in real traffic conditions.
For these reasons, ANFIA hopes that also in Italy there will soon be a national standard of reference for experimentation on roads open to vehicles equipped with automated driving systems, in accordance with the regulations of other leading European countries and in line with the recommendations emerging from their technical meetings on "Smart Roads", coordinated by the technical unit of the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transportation's.
The Smart Roads" Decree issued by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport in March 2018, allows road testing activities to be regulated in a safe and uniform manner throughout Italy. Its content is in line with the principles recently established by the UN Road Safety Forum (WP1), which states that " providing that a person is present who is always vigilant and able to take command of the experimental vehicle at any time (this person may not be on board the vehicle itself), the International Conventions of 1948 and 1968 on Road Traffic are not in conflict with the road experimentation" (72nd session WP1, Geneva, 29th of March - 1st of April 2016).
The decree regulates the infrastructural adaptation of transport - with the aim of transforming the national road network by making it capable of communicating with connected vehicles, together with the relative testing, in anticipation of future developments in automatic driving systems. In particular, the provision establishes the Ministry's authorisation procedures for the testing of automatic driving vehicles on public roads, which may be requested by the Vehicle Manufacturer using automatic driving technology as well as by university institutes and public and private research bodies that conduct experiments on vehicles equipped with driving automation technology. The MIT will also set up a Technical Support Centre for Smart Roads and for the vehicles connected to automatic driving with the aim of identifying support measures for experimentation (creation of databases, and shared platforms for the use of data from the vehicles being experimented).