‘Our goal is to increase economic and social prosperity in the Netherlands while enhancing sustainability, rendering the country future-proof.'

DITM Partnerstory with TNO

‘Our goal is to increase economic and social prosperity in the Netherlands while enhancing sustainability, rendering the country future-proof.'

Interview with Wiljan Willems of TNO, partner of the DITM project.

DITM stands for Digital Infrastructure for Future-Proof Mobility, a national project, which is funded by the Dutch government. As part of the project, RAI Automotive Industry NL and Brainport Development are working with partner companies to implement the digital infrastructure for automated transport. Enabling us to organize our mobility in a more efficient and safe way. We focus, among others, on innovative digital map production systems that produce, and update maps based on the road infrastructure’s continuous sensor observations and the increasing number of "smart" vehicles on the road.

Please introduce yourself!

I am Wiljan Willems and I am working as a Senior Project Manager at the Integrated Vehicle Safety (IVS) department of TNO’s Mobility & Built Environment (MBE) unit. We are working on societal challenges in the field of mobility and transport, and we specifically focus on reducing traffic casualties and creating new autonomous driving concepts. To this end, TNO has established research and testing facilities at the Automotive Campus in Helmond. I am managing work package five of the Digital Infrastructure for Future-Proof Mobility (DITM) project.

I have been working for TNO for about three and a half years now. Before I started working at TNO, I worked abroad in the automotive (manufacturing) industry, gaining extensive international experience and knowledge. I worked as a buyer and project lead at Volvo Cars in Helmond, Born, and Sweden for many years. I also worked for an automotive supplier, managing projects for Scania (Sweden and Brazil) and BMW (China, Germany, and USA).

I really enjoy working for TNO, because it allows me to work with an inspiring team of international experts, all with diverse specializations and backgrounds in the field of integrated vehicle safety. Our teams often work on projects that require collaboration with companies and public parties to be able to create innovations that strengthen the competitiveness of the industry and the well-being of society in a sustainable way. I am still learning every day, both as a person and in terms of technical content. This is what makes working at TNO so appealing and interesting.

What is the objective of the Digital Infrastructure Future-Proof Mobility pillar you are working on?
The goal of work package 5 - Validation Lab - is to establish a testing and simulation environment for validation at a technology and system level. As part of the work package, a simulation platform will be developed to support the development of CCAM (Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility) technologies. The platform will be used to test and validate the CCAM technologies developed as part of the other work packages. This platform is being developed by Partner Siemens and covers the entire development cycle, including data collection, data extraction, CCAM vehicle and traffic simulations, simulation model verification and validation as well as management of simulation requirements, models, and results.

Vehicle, roadside, infrastructure, and digital data infrastructure are becoming more and more integrated. The simulation platform is prepared for this. Allowing us to link vehicle-level micro-simulations with macro-level mobility simulations to test and validate the impact of the chosen CCAM solutions on a larger scale (city, region, country). Thus allowing us to determine the social impact of introducing and potentially scaling up different configurations of the CCAM application. What is the potential impact on accessibility, traffic flow, energy system, traffic safety and air quality? To what extent do these applications help create a livable city? Furthermore, we are also looking at inclusivity: how many and which groups of people will (and should) use these applications, and who will benefit.

The 'Validation Lab' enables us to make informed (future) system choices and to substantiate design issues and investment decisions regarding CCAM implementations before major investments are made. Moreover, risks are identified and mitigated earlier on and the number of iterations during implementation is reduced. Not only resulting in cost savings for the companies and public authorities that are implementing CCAM solutions. The RDW, for example, also benefits from the Validation Lab as a vestibule for developing parties that seek approval from RDW/MITC for admission of new vehicles on the road.

At the same time, the Validation Lab also offers the opportunity to test innovative digital concepts (in the Cloud, via the data sharing ecosystem). The Validation Lab's ambition is to align as much as possible with existing, international (open) standards to ensure interoperability. The work package will create a validation environment that, after completion of this project, can also be permanently used for other projects in the field of digital road infrastructure.

In addition to a virtual testing environment, we will also use a physical testing environment to test the CCAM technology developed by the DITM partners in a real-life setting. The test results can then be used to validate the simulations, using existing instrumented (public) sites or roads; and connecting their digital ecosystems to the simulation environments. Vehicles with a connection to this digital platform (through communication) can actively use the information made available and also actively share information with the network, thus testing innovative mobility solutions in a real-life setting.

Why is it so important for you to participate in this project?

I love clean air and don't like traffic jams. But I also like to use my car to travel from A to B in a comfortable and safe way.

However, I noticed that the roads are quickly clogging up again after the corona era. The population will continue to grow in the coming years, and on average we all live longer. So the already clogged up roads will even get busier.

Speaking on the opening day of Automotive Week 2023 in Helmond, Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi, CEO of TNO, said the following: "Worldwide, there is an increasing demand for mobility. At the same time, we need to get from A to B more sustainably, safely, and efficiently than ever before. The sector brings forth a multitude of smart ideas, but we lack the capacity to smoothly and quickly get innovations on the road."

The objective of the DITM project and in particular the Validation Lab is to get smart mobility concepts, which have maximum impact on safety, traffic flow, and sustainability, on the road faster. This way, we can make a positive contribution to future-proof mobility. The ways of working within the DITM project are unique; one strong and multidisciplinary ecosystem pursuing one common goal. The project partners, who already have a strong history of cooperation, and national stakeholders are jointly realizing a foundation consisting of a system architecture, a Validation Lab, and public-private cooperation agreements. Enabling us to facilitate new CCAM implementations to bring the developments to market faster (interest of private parties), and to ensure that the developments contribute to safer, more effective, and cleaner mobility (interest of public parties). By jointly working on accepted frameworks and practices, we make rapid, step-by-step scaling up possible, which is in the interests of both public authorities and businesses. After all, CCAM only generates economic and social returns when there is sufficient scale.

By participating in DITM, I contribute to the social importance of good mobility.

How will these innovations affect the Dutch citizens?

With its substantive activities, DITM aims to make a positive contribution to future-proof mobility by making mobility smarter, cleaner, and safer. By using smart technology, Dutch citizens can continue to use the positive aspects of the car: its comfort, flexibility, and speed.

What parties would you like to work with to achieve success and what are the topics people can contact you for?

The Validation Lab will be housed in MARQ (Mobility Applied Research Quarter); a new, dynamic, and open innovation center located on the Automotive Campus. MARQ will open its doors at the end of 2024.

MARQ will play an important role in the collaboration between knowledge institutions, industry, and public authorities. Worldwide, priorities in government and R&D agendas are shifting toward the development of smart mobility ecosystems, which focus on digitization and automation. This can only be achieved if traditional parties in the automotive industry work closely with the ICT sector, the traffic industry, and national and regional public authorities.

That is why TNO is working with the Province of North Brabant and the Municipality of Helmond to develop MARQ, a dynamic and open innovation center for smart mobility. With MARQ, TNO is making its collective knowledge, advanced testing and research facilities, and simulation models available in an accessible innovation and research hub. The open character of the hub encourages collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and resources.

I like to get in touch with companies that are interested to find out how MARQ can help them. You can contact me via wiljan.willems op tno punt nl