After a decade at the FIA Jacob Bangsgaard has returned to ERTICO, this time as its new CEO. Kevin Borras marks the occasion by asking the new man at the helm to outline his vision for the future and to assess how much the ITS sector has evolved in his 10 years away from the frontline

I have placed a bet only once. In January 1988 I put £5 on my football team to win the FA Cup at odds of 40-1. Five months later I collected my £205 winnings and decided that I should retire from gambling with a 100 per cent record. I had never even felt in the slightest bit tempted to place any money on something entirely out of my control again but late last year when it was announced that Hermann Meyer would be leaving his post as CEO of ERTICO-ITS Europe I fleetingly wondered if any bookmaker would be interested in taking my money if they were offering odds on who his replacement might be. I didn’t even get as far as doing any research but had I been able to I would have placed a few pounds on that person being Jacob Bangsgaard.

Of course I had absolutely no idea if he was even remotely interested in the role and for all I knew ERTICO may have already whittled the applicants down to a short list of preferred candidates that was entirely Jacobless. I posited my theory to some ITS friends, that Jacob was, in my opinion, the perfect choice to be ERTICO’s new commander in chief and for all intents and purposes I can summarise the responses as sage nodding. It’s not often everyone agrees with me (to be honest, it’s not often anyone agrees with me) but I started to think that my money, had I placed it, would have been safe.

December 2016, I am having lunch with Jacob and decide to trot out my story. “That’s nice to know,” he said humbly, as I hacked my way into the veritable rain forest of a salad. “I thought I had a chance.”

It feels a little strange welcoming someone back to a place where they had worked for x years previously but almost 10 years to the day since leaving the Blue Tower in Brussels to start a new career with the FiA half a kilometer away, Bangsgaard is returning to a very different ERTICO and a very different ITS sector in, let’s be frank, a very different Europe. What made him want to go back? There is that famous saying, after all…

“I know, but I am glad to be back. I have been part of ERTICO’s Supervisory Board for the past five years and I am a strong supporter of ERTICO’s mission, so when the possibility of sitting in the front seat and continuing to drive the organisation’s success came along, it felt like a perfect fit,” he responds.

There may well be people reading this article that weren’t previously aware of what he had been doing in the interim (if a decade can be justifiably called an interim), so for the unenlightened what were his responsibilities at the FIA?

“I was Director General for FIA Region 1 (EMEA regions) since 2010, representing more than 100 mobility clubs. I am very proud of what we achieved during the six years I was in that position, including the numerous club development activities, campaigns and projects, some of which also involved ERTICO. Fortunately I will continue working with many of my old FIA colleagues as they are involved in several ERTICO activities.”

Transferrable skills are a priceless asset, what will he be able to bring to his new role that he learned at the FIA?

“I have been working on transport and mobility issues for almost 26 years here in Brussels,” says the 49-year old Dane. “I am going to bring my expertise in liaising with the European institutions and cultivating international cooperation, as well as my experience in raising awareness to this role. Raising awareness, in particular, I believe is crucial if we are to strengthen the take-up of ITS technologies.”

It’s fair to say that the ITS sector has changed quite a lot since 2007. Autonomous vehicles, cloud computing and big data are just three elements that weren’t really part of our lexicon 10 years ago. It may be hard to say, given that at the time of writing he had only been back a few weeks, but what other changes to the marketplace does he foresee as affecting ERTICO in the coming years?

“The challenge ahead is the integration of technologies to offer seamless mobility services for people as well as goods. The physical internet of logistics, integration of physical and digital infrastructure and hybrid technologies will affect the marketplace in the years to come,” he insists.

“However, the reduction of environmental impact will be the driving force shaping tomorrow’s mobility. The transition from today’s mobility to an automated transport system is also a key challenge. Over the past 10 years a lot of attention has been paid to technologies, solutions and conversion to standards. ITS services are gradually entering a more mature phase with more data being transmitted, stored and analysed. This evolution means that these technologies are now closer to market introduction, presenting real opportunities to transform mobility.”

And these new technologies generate a whole new set of challenges in themselves.

“Absolutely, this evolution is not without challenges. Issues relating to legal, regulatory, liability, data privacy, and awareness and investments for ITS deployment have to be addressed. If we take look at where we will be in 10 years, the picture may even get more complicated. We will look at new technological needs and paradigm shift in terms of mobility. An example of this is the driverless vehicle.”

What, then does he see as the most critical pieces in the “jigsaw” at the moment?

“In today’s market it is essential to manage expectations carefully. The transition to automated driving, discussed 10 years ago, is a good example of this. We will manage expectations carefully to ensure that the most solid ideas are brought to the market and that residual ideas may be picked up in a later phase,” he notes, diplomatically.

“ERTICO will pay special attention to harmonisation of transport services not only in Europe but also in other regions. Data quality, data sharing and privacy are key. Through our work and activities, we are currently addressing topics relating to connected and automated driving, Mobility as a Service, electromobility, and freight and logistics. By bringing various public and private players together, ERTICO is leading the way for the convergence of cooperative ITS and automated road systems, including automated vehicles and the required physical and digital infrastructure. ERTICO is promoting the potential, the use, the impact and the benefits of big data technologies serving automation, assessing the impact of automated vehicle functions through large scale pilots, and fostering the identification, adoption and roll-out of interoperable, reliable and certified services for automation. We have several activities undergoing in this sense and are working with the European Commission to host the first conference on connected and automated driving in April.”

Another factor that was not necessarily on the table in 2007 was electric vehicles. The concept of electromobility was certainly taking shape back then but EV charging posts were rarer than hen’s teeth. Although they aren’t quite ubiquitous now the EV market has expanded hugely during Jacob’s time at the FIA.

“On electromobility, we are running projects and innovation platforms addressing the electrification of vehicles in the transport sector,” he enthuses. “With these activities we are aiming to foster an electric vehicles marketplace with dedicated and interoperable services integrated into a global mobility service. As I mentioned before, we are also looking at mobility for goods across borders in order to guarantee efficient and safe logistics operations. For example, we are currently driving some key projects to define the appropriate interfaces for data exchange across different ITS platforms in logistics, like port community systems, single window systems, etc. This is because the deployment of C-ITS services for freight and logistics requires interoperable and complementary communication technologies as well as new business models for the logistics stakeholders.”

Electric vehicles are one of the cornerstones of Mobility as a Service, a concept that didn’t exist five years ago, let alone 10.

“It’s the hot topic of the year but MaaS actually represents the future of mobility. We are looking at the development of a Europe-wide service marketplace that supports business-to-business and business-to-consumer services in a coherent and interoperable way. We believe that a city-led partnership will deliver “sustainability as a profitable service” including new organisation and business models. Harmonised tools and APIs for interconnection and integration of transport systems, working in concert with mobility data and services, will enable the ‘plug and play city’”.

So how will Jacob in particular and ERTICO in general go about identifying new trends and themes in the ITS sector and deciding which ones offer the greatest opportunity for projects and future implementation? How will he ensure that the vast majority of projects and pilots under his stewardship come to fruition in some form?

“ITS is in a situation where there is an awakening of many technologies (such as connectivity, cloud-computing, big data, Internet of Things, digitalisation of the world, artificial intelligence) and they do not necessarily come from the transport domain but will come into it. We need to keep an eye on what is happening in the global market and integrate elements from the IT sector as they develop,” he maintains.

“ITS services have already expanded to include other types of services related to not only road infrastructure but to links to the hinterland. But how can ITS and new technologies like IoT support the port industry with its specific challenges? How can we integrate urban flows of goods with flows of passengers in cities? We need to look at the general societal trends and evolutions: how will people prefer to consume mobility in let’s say 20 years’ time? How will transport meet people’s mobility needs using ITS? It is evident that urban areas will be more and more crowded so the challenge will be to combine and link urban mobility to regional transport. ERTICO’s challenge is to oversee the creation of a seamless mobility offering including personalised mobility packages at affordable prices while integrating public transport, sharing, electromobility, and so on.”

A leading ITS figure told me he was very pleased that Jacon had got the job as he was the ideal person to “steady the ship”. I wondered if he saw that as part of his role and if indeed he even saw ERTICO as a ship that needed steadying?

“I am sure that my former colleagues would tell you that I’m not only aiming for a steady ship. I want to look for improvements and disruption so we can follow the societal changes and focus on being relevant for our partners and for the business and policy developments that we are a central part of. I have spent the first month in the office to learn more about the ERTICO activities, the partners and the skills of our team. We have a great team but its stretched to the limit with all the activities we are involved in, so one of my first tasks will be to look at our priorities together with the team, the partners and in cooperation with the ERTICO Supervisory Board.

“It will not be business as usual for all of our focus areas but to continue you shipping theme we will hopefully get everyone on board the boat before we sail towards new challenges.”

People are expecting to see change – a change at the top should surely mean a different approach, a different methodology…so what will be the first major change that ERTICO members will see under the auspices of the new Bangsgaard administration (I thought “regime” was a bit harsh given what is happening elsewhere in the world)?

“We are a partnership-oriented organisation and as such we will keep satisfying our partners’ wants and needs. Of course we will keep our core activities such as deployment projects but we will also look at building upon our relationship with institutional partners. Therefore, from a strategic and operational point of view, ERTICO’s activities will be perfectly aligned to the businesses and interests of our partners. Our portfolio of activities will be realigned to clearly reflect that vision and mission,” he asserts.

“On the other hand, we also know that there are many companies out there that are not part of our partnership and we will look to reach out to them and make sure that we represent all of the parties needed to move intelligent transport systems forward.”

I once heard someone criticise ERTICO for “having more pilots than British Airways” (although it was said tongue-in-cheek) but is that one of Jacob’s aims, to increase the amount of projects that produce commercially available products?

“We are not necessarily looking at increasing the number of projects we are involved in,” he reveals, “but we want to set up activities with our partners to roll out ITS implementation. For ERTICO, the innovation platforms (such as ADASIS, eMI3, the MaaS Alliance, TISA, TN-ITS, TM2.0, and the newly formed Automotive-Telecom Alliance) are very important and we want to ensure that the results of our projects will feed into these platforms.”

So how different a beast will ERTICO be in, say, five years time? It had certainly metamorphosed into something quite different after the first five years of Hermann Meyer’s tenure if you compare how the organisation was perceived under M Mossé. What will Jacob Bangsgaard see as a successful stewardship?
“I will be happy if, in five years’time, ERTICO is perceived as the ultimate ITS knowledge centre, supporting the roll-out of ITS throughout Europe and as the instrument for opening up international markets for ITS products, technologies and solutions developed by the ERTICO Partnership. In the long term, I want the expertise and solutions provided by our European ITS industries to be the best in the world.”

Although it’s completely coincidental that the first European ITS World Congress with Jacob as CEO will be held in his home country, does the fact that it’s 20 months away give him a really good opportunity to make his mark, as it were?

“It is a coincidence indeed, but I can proudly say that Copenhagen has shown remarkable results while working with urban development challenges in relation to traffic safety, environment and congestion. Copenhagen’s driving ambition is to become the first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025 and wants to become the European leader within green technology and innovation,” he announces with obvious national pride.

“The City of Copenhagen is active in a number of innovative projects, including making public transport more attractive and less polluting, as well as raising the average speed of cyclists by using ITS solutions to prolong green lights. ITS will help Copenhagen to improve traffic flow, road safety, promote cycling and enhance public transport. Copenhagen wants solutions that are smarter, greener and healthier. The green agenda addresses citizen’s needs: a green city is a precondition to a liveable and healthy city. The Copenhagen showcase will be a perfect illustration of what ERTICO wants to achieve: safer, smarter and cleaner mobility with zero accidents, zero delays,fully informed people and reduced environmental impact.

“On top of that Copenhagen is a great city so I look forward to attending the conference together with the ERTICO partners. I will use this great opportunity to eat some smørrebrød during that week, one of the things I miss after having lived abroad for more than 25 years!”