The road to the future of European traffic: European Commission publishes strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems

By Martin Miernicki

On 30 November 2016, the Commission published the Communication COM(2016) 766 on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS). C-ITS involve the cooperation, connectivity, and automation of vehicles, and they enable the communication between — and the coordination of — road users and traffic infrastructure. The additional information provided by C-ITS assists drivers and traffic managers in decision-making, especially with regard to road safety and traffic efficiency.



The promotion and regulation of C-ITS is part of the Commission’s larger policy focus on emerging technologies. Related activities include the Digital Single Market Strategy, the Digitising European Industry Strategy, and the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility. In 2014, the Commission created the C-ITS platform in order to address remaining problems in connection with the application of this technology. The platform published an expert report in early 2016, which resulted in the C-ITS communication. The need for a common European strategy on C-ITS was further expressed by the European transport ministers in the 2016 Declaration of Amsterdam.


Core aspects of the communication

The communication highlights multiple advantages associated with the use of C-ITS, like increased road safety, reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, more efficient traffic, and positive effects on the European economy overall through the creation of new jobs in the sector. However, several problems must be addressed before C-ITS can be fully deployed.

  • Security of C-ITS communication

The use of C-ITS makes transport systems more vulnerable to hacking and cyber-attacks. For this reason, the Commission proposes to develop a common security and certificate policy in order to ensure that C-ITS adequately respond to security threats. This process should involve all relevant stakeholders (e.g. public authorities, vehicle manufacturers, etc.).

  • Data protection and privacy

The Commission underscores that the data transmitted by C-ITS can qualify as personal data, which are subject to the European rules on data protection. The Commission believes that the protection of such data is crucial to the acceptance of C-ITS by end-users.

  • Communication technologies & interoperability

The strategy focuses on a “hybrid communication approach” which combines different complementary communication technologies, rather than proposing a single technical solution for C-ITS. In the Commission’s opinion, the most promising communication mix is a combination of ETSI ITS-G5 and existing cellular networks. Furthermore, the Commission emphasizes the need to ensure the interoperability of C-ITS by the development of an EU-wide standardization process. In this connection, the C-Roads platform was launched in 2016.


Further action

The overall aim is to deploy C-ITS in 2019. For this purpose, the Commission announced plans to publish guidance regarding the C-ITS related security and certificate policy in 2017 and regarding data protection in the following year. In order to create the necessary legal framework for C-ITS, the Commission will adopt delegated acts by 2018, especially considering the ITS Directive.