In the wake of the European Commission’s recent publication of its European data strategy and White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, IRU kicked off its Stakeholders Forum on Data last week in order to discuss open questions related to the management of data between different actors and interests with the objective to unlock the full potential of the digital transport economy.

Held at IRU’s Brussels Office, this latest IRU initiative provided the perfect opportunity for key industry stakeholders – including high-level representatives from the MaaS Alliance, the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), the European Shippers’ Council (ESC), the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), and BusinessEurope, as well as IRU experts – to share their views and expectations on the current and future challenges in regulating data.

Balancing data sharing and data privacy
The impacts of digitalisation are being felt everywhere. Digitalisation has brought new challenges relating to access to, and the collection, storage, privacy, sharing, use, and security of data. For instance, vehicles fitted with digital systems can produce up to 25GB of data every hour, with autonomous vehicles estimated to produce terabytes of data within a similar period (source: EU Data Strategy). Digital data can include information on customers, fuel consumption, routes and even vehicle load. Some of this information can be highly commercially sensitive, especially if aggregated at the fleet level.

Nonetheless, the ability to collect data digitally from different sources, including vehicles and transport operators, offers exciting new opportunities to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the road transport sector.

In its data strategy, the European Commission identified the transport industry as an important area of strategic focus, particularly given the transition to autonomous vehicles. It recognised however that the current lack of data trust represents one of the key obstacles to business-to-business data sharing in the sector.

Aligning the road transport’s approach to data
A coordinated and aligned stance by the transport stakeholders is therefore urgently required. The IRU Stakeholders Forum on Data responds to this need by offering participants the chance to brainstorm ideas, debate, share knowledge and align their views on access, use, and re-use of business-to-business data with the objective to come with a legislative proposal in support of the recently published European Commission Data Strategy.

“With data increasingly becoming the new global currency and the EU entering a new phase of regulating the digital economy, passenger and goods transport companies should be empowered through the efficient use of data to make the best decisions for their businesses. The topic is of top priority to everyone, which is also why we decided to dedicate our annual EU conference, coming up in June, to the subject,” commented IRU General Delegate Raluca Marian.

IRU’s Stakeholders Forum on Data is therefore a well-timed initiative. With several more meetings planned for 2020, it represents a unique opportunity for the sector to discuss industry perspectives, put forward proposals on regulating data governance and address the current gaps through legislative interventions.