MEP: EU needs common standards for digital transport, data management

"First, we should not create any artificial obstacles to data flows," says Dita Charanzová. [European Parliament]

This article is part of our special report Where will big data drive European transport?.

Europe will have to work hard against competitors in China and the US to be a global leader in digital solutions for transport, an MEP involved in the issue told in an interview. Legislation must ensure common standards across the EU for transport to flow freely, she stressed.

Dita Charanzová also underlined the importance of balancing the wish for an unhindered flow of data with the need to handle information in the “most secure and safest way”.

Dita Charanzová is a Czech MEP from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group and Vice-Chair of the internal market committee (IMCO) in the European Parliament. She sent written replies to EURACTIV ahead of the European Transport Forum 2017 held on Tuesday (17 October), where she was one of the key speakers.

Do you agree that data could be the new fuel for the transport sector?

Yes, indeed, a brand new sector linked to personal mobility is built upon data flows and transfers. Both car manufacturers and technology companies are fully aware of it and focus a lot on innovation in this area. For us as legislators, there are a couple of key challenges in this regard.

First, we should not create any artificial obstacles to data flows. Second, we need to make sure they are handled in the most secure and safest way, in the end, the data is strictly private.

What are the potential benefits of digitalisation in transport? 

The potential benefits are numerous. By better managing traffic flows we can save a lot of time and energy, we can also help save the environment. There are already now systems available to help people park in the cities or share rides, which prove their effectiveness. Also, with connected cars, the comfort of consumers or drivers would increase enormously. Imagine that instead of fully concentrating on driving, which is the case today, you can work, study or do your shopping instead. This would bring us into an entirely new era.

What kind of a legal framework does Europe need to regulate digital transport? Very detailed and prescriptive, or a  basic legislation that can be modified later once we see the effects in practice? Where would you draw the line between EU and member state competences?

I personally prefer less to more when it comes to the regulatory framework with regards to the new digital trends. Ex-post legislative approach is better suited for their fast evolution.

What we do need is common EU standards. We need to make sure that if a self-driven car drives from one country to another, it won’t stop at the border because of incompatibility issues. Such a cross-border transfer has to be as smooth as possible. Member states need to ensure that self-driven cars can circulate on their roads and that there is an appropriate infrastructure developed for them.

Are there already huge discrepancies in the digitalisation of transport among different member states?

That is hard to assess now, there is not much data on it. We can say that some member states, such as Germany, France or Netherlands, have already understood the importance of digitalisation in the transport sector and take it as a serious part of their political debate. Germany has even recently adopted a legislation on automated driving.

Some member states perhaps pay less attention to it now, but I think it is a debate we will need to have sooner or later among all members on the EU level.

What are the main challenges for the legislation? How do you think the issue of data privacy and ownership should be regulated?

Data privacy is definitely one of the key issues, but not the only one. As I said, setting common standards, but also dealing for instance with issues such as liability in case of accidents will be challenging.

On data privacy, I believe that we can see already now that the manufacturers do take it very seriously. We have, in the EU, a solid data privacy legislative framework which, I think, can fit quite well also the transport sector for the time being.

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In your view, is Europe behind other parts of the world in this respect, or has it moved early enough and can be a global leader in implementing digital solutions in transport?

I hope Europe can be a leader on the global scale in this area. We see many companies working hard on it, investing considerably and thriving through innovation.

But the competition from other technology companies, mainly in the US and China, is extremely strong. We need to be ready in the EU to help our businesses as much as we can so that they can use their potential and grow instead of leaving to the US or elsewhere, which is often the case today.

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