Reinventing Road Transportation Systems

By Stefan Groenendal for Enlivening Edge

Can only organisations be reinvented, or can also complete social sectors be inspired by a next-stage in human consciousness?

That intriguing question recently came up when George Pór and I talked about writing on transportation systems for Enlivening Edge. In this article, I explore whether road transportation can be reinvented to become a sector of society which is self-managed by its stakeholders, guided by its evolutionary purpose, and has room for our wholeness.

Two years ago I was part of a small team to formulate a vision on how Cooperative Intelligent Transportation Systems (C-ITS) could be implemented by public-private partnerships. That was before having read Reinventing Organisations (1) and other books such as Leading from the Emerging Future (2) and The Entrepreneurial State (3). The parallels of the visions in these books and our vision are remarkable! We envisioned that advanced forms of public-private partnerships can be created for C-ITS and would bring significant value to society: citizens, business, government, and knowledge institutes. Before discussing this let me first take you through the technological developments in different parts of road transportation that are important to the development of the system as a whole.


Vehicle to vehicle and Vehicle to Infrastructure communication of C-ITS. Source: Car 2 Car Communication Consortium

It needs little explanation that cars, trucks, and buses alike are becoming ‘intelligent’, in the sense that information technology is more and more omnipresent in vehicles. In fact, an average model sedan car has 50 processors (100 in luxury cars), which are enabling all kinds of functions. The number of sensors in vehicles is even growing more rapidly. This exponential growth of technology has for example changed Cruise Control to Adaptive Cruise Control that adjusts speed, based on what the cars sense happening in front of them. And is currently changing cruise control to “Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control,” a technology whereby vehicles communicate their speed and braking data to each other. This enables cars to drive more closely and safely to each other. It even enables trucks to do platooning: trains of trucks driving close to each other.

Vehicles will also communicate with the infrastructure around them knowing exactly, for example when traffic lights will be green or red, and adapting their speed so that a more continuous flow of traffic is enabled. In fact cars will receive all the needed data to drive efficiently in real-time. When an accident happens nearby, the vehicle will know it. When road works are planned, the vehicle will know it. When first responders rush to people in need, vehicles will be warned before the sirens can be heard. The possibilities of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems are endless.

Think Internet of Things on wheels.

The functions, like the Adaptive Cruise Control, City Break, Lane Departure Warning, and Real Time Traffic Information, sell cars, and they sell very well. The automotive industry thrives on it. However, these functions are not really cooperative, as of yet. Fast and secure vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication is simply not there yet. It is in an experimental stage. Modern cars do have 3G and 4G communication. However, many functions need the fast and safe communication of WiFi-P, a special version of the WiFi we have in our homes. That data and communication infrastructure is very important to the transformation ahead.

C-ITS is expected to contribute to the efficient flow of traffic, lowering exhaust gases and making driving safer. The EU is therefore stimulating its adoption. In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has adopted the EU vision. Moreover the Ministry sees it as an opportunity to save costs on traffic management and its infrastructure. It is stimulating the market to adopt these technologies.

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Evolution of organisational paradigms according to Otto Scharmer (2) and Frederic Laloux (1)

Another driver of that shift is the Dutch government’s privatisation of traffic management: transforming it from state-centric to free-market, or in Laloux’s terms (see table on the left), from an Amber ‘command and control’ to an Orange ‘efficiency-driven’ sector. In traffic management terminology, the transformation is from Central Traffic Management to Distributed Traffic Management. After all, when a vehicle has all the information needed in real-time, then drivers can make all traffic decisions themselves.

Then there is an increasing number of apps available on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS that can be used for navigation. Waze is a great example. It is a social navigation app. Users, so-called Wazers, report to the system where they are driving, the traffic state, accidents, map errors, gas stations, pictures of destinations, etcetera. Waze processes the data and returns real-time traffic information for the whole Waze community. The key benefit is, according to Waze, outsmarting traffic together. It is an example of both cooperative technology, and I would say, a “social market”-oriented, or “Green” traffic management organisation. However, Waze was acquired by Google in 2013, and its entire system is still far from the Teal paradigm of self-management for an evolutionary purpose.

Let us look at road transportation from a perspective beyond technology, and see what innovations and ideas are out there. Why? Because technology alone is not going to solve road transportation’s challenges. Innovation is in integration. Henry Ford invented neither the combustion engine nor the assembly line. He cleverly integrated the two. He even raised the wages of his own workers and put a financial system in place for his workers and customers. Thus for the T-Ford innovation to become available for mass markets, it required the integration of innovations in different fields, even if those innovations were just incremental.


Cooperative Intelligent Transportation Systems technology is transforming transportation governance to a Teal-like organisation

Integration requires people from different disciplines to work together. The business case for C-ITS underlines this, as it turns out to be a positive case only from a multi-stakeholder perspective. In calculations made by the University of Eindhoven, it is the healthcare sector and insurance sector that will profit from investments in C-ITS. After all, less accidents and less pollution means lower healthcare and decreased repair costs. The logical investor would be the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment. However, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment will not get any return on its investments. Only the whole has a positive return equal to annual savings of half billion to one and a half billion Euros for the Netherlands (5). It thus requires Ministries to work more from the evolutionary purpose of the whole.

Going back to technology for a moment,

multi-stakeholder cooperation between public and private stakeholders, can be found in DITCM, the Dutch Integrated Testsite for Cooperative Mobility, a Research & Development consortium on co-operative mobility where industry, the knowledge sector, and government uniquely work together.

It focuses on R&D of Cooperative Mobility technology, human factors, effect studies, and international policy. The team I was part of envisioned that this scope should be expanded to also include legal, finance, public relations, data-and-communication standardisation, and customer relationship management – in fact, all the disciplines one would find in a traditional business organisation.

Taking our thinking further than R&D, and thinking in terms of a cooperative value chain, the idea of an operational organisation came to mind. All developed technology needed to be implemented. We suggested that Strategic Platform for Intelligent Transportation Systems (SPITS) could take the role of enabling the smooth implementation. SPITS had been one of the largest research projects on ITS. We suggested it should serve as a true enabling platform for the transportation sector. Of all deployment barriers, two areas are of critical importance: data-sharing and finance.

The Dutch government has opened its databases on road transportation and shares data through NDW, the National Data Warehouse for Traffic Information. However, industry does not share its data with government. Industry and service providers amongst each other share data minimally. Systems like that of TomTom, BMW’s Connected Drive, and even Waze are still proprietary systems and share data only within their own community. SPITS would enable data sharing by functioning as a platform that makes the availability and pricing of data transparent, and makes it available for everyone to buy, process, and sell. In line with that, SPITS would also promote the safe and secure use of citizens private data on transportation. After all, citizens and their private or company cars are the source of most data. And they are one of the largest groups of end-users of the real time traffic information.

Investments for C-ITS research and development have been substantial. However, national subsidies for R&D have gone down over the years as a result of austerity and private companies kept their investments to a minimum. EU’s Horizon2020 program and the pillar of Smart, Green and Integrated Transport does have large sums of funds available but the number of consortia applying for them has been overwhelming. Then there is also financing needed for deployment of C-ITS. This is where the majority of the investments will be needed. For the Netherlands alone, deployment of C-ITS is running into billions of Euros.

Additionally, there is also the problem of investors not receiving the return directly. SPITS could solve this altogether in a cooperative structure regulating investments and the fair distribution of earnings and savings among its member users, investors and beneficiaries. The structure should be such that money is circulated ‘guaranteeing’ the continuity of all organisations. It would solve the risk-reward nexus (4) by rebalancing risk and reward.

To expand the scope of DITCM and get SPITS operationalised, different disciplines should work together: what we called a ‘grand cooperative structure’ harvesting the collective intelligence of the sector and focusing it towards implementation and continued research and development. After we made that suggestion, the Dutch government initiated the Connecting Mobility program which connects organisations for the purpose of catalysing the transition to smart mobility. It is a good step in the direction of Communities of Interest and, beyond them, towards a true Meshwork (6) where all actions are linked together for the purpose of the whole.

Meshworking is one of the most hopeful innovations I have seen for dealing with the complex global challenges humanity is facing today. The combination of face-to-face collaboration processes with leading edge online technology enables stakeholders to self-organise cross-sector rapidly and effectively for large scale impact (6),

according to Herman Wijffels, former CEO of the Rabobank, Chair of the Social and Economic Advisory Council to the Dutch Government, Dutch Director at the World Bank and currently professor of sustainability at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Don Beck, author of Spiral Dynamics, originally introduced the term Meshwork and defined it as the integration, alignment and synergy of multiple elements, entities, interests and motives to weave them together to create healthy, dynamic and comprehensive solutions to complex problems within rapidly changing environments.

In concluding this article, let’s consider: What would a Teal road transportation system be like? Let us look at it through the lens of the three breakthroughs of Teal organisations.

Self-management. With C-ITS, transportation is growing into the Internet of Things. Transportation is becoming very data-intensive: data about the space we live in – common data, so to say. Therefore, it is expected that transportation will grow into a sort of commons. Governance of transportation as a commons will look like the governance structure of Linux and the World Wide Web Consortium. So yes, there will be self-management of the sector. There will be self-finance as well. However, as of now, even a Green multi-stakeholder cooperation has yet to be realised. Nevertheless,  DITCM as collaborative R&D and SPITS as a collaborative operational organisation can also become vehicles for a sector moving to Teal.

Wholeness. The sector is clearly not operating yet from its complete scope, that is from every discipline being equally important. True innovation is in integration, as we saw. Once this consciousness is reached, Wholeness can solve the most challenging barriers facing transportation today.

Evolutionary Purpose. Transportation is an integral part of our society. It has evolved to being a means to discover the whole world, and to experience diversity and learn from it. It will continue to do so in a clean and safe environment. There are signs transport will slow down as energy resources will be converted to wind, solar, and other durable sources of energy. Conscious collaborative consumption and localisation will alter the flow of many goods. It may even alter global relations as the need for oil for transportation will ease.

The purpose of this article was to open the conversation for envisioning how a complete social system (road transportation) can be reimagined from a Teal perspective. In the coming editions of Enlivening Edge, I will explore other aspects and modalities of transportation as well, looked at through a Teal lens.

Your ideas and questions are essential to take this journey of exploration further. Please post them below.


(1) Frederic Laloux, 2014, Reinventing Organisations

(2) Otto Scharmer, Katrin Kaufer, Leading from the Emerging from the Future – From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies

(3) Mariana Mazzucato, 2013, The Entrepreneurial State-Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths

(4) William Lazonik, Mariana Mazzucato, 2012 The Risk-Reward Nexus – Innovation Finance and Inclusive Growth

(5) Rutten, van de Weijer, van Woensel, 2013, Distributed Traffic Management Enables Lower Infrastructure Costs and higher social benefits

(6) Anne-Marie Voorhoeve, Morel Fourman, 2011, THC Meshwork Flyer


Stefan Groenendal, BSc, MBA, is an independent researcher and action consultant working and living in The Benelux. Fields of interest are, amongst others, organisational development, collaboration development, technology, information technology, value modelling. Sectors of interest are air traffic management, security, automotive, traffic management, marine, harbours. Follow me on Twitter @sgroenendal. Connect with me on Linkedin


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