A safe and efficient transportation system is critical for a flourishing economy, and has a direct effect on the lives, the wellbeing, and the livelihood of all the country’s citizens. The vision of the MoT (Ministry of Transport), which is tasked with transportation planning in Israel, is to make Israel a world leader in the field of innovative transportation, by using the country’s rich technological resources and human capital. In an effort to make this vision a reality, the Ministry is aspiring to promote smart transportation, to expand public transit, to lessen traffic congestion, to lower incidences of road accidents, and to reduce pollution caused by transportation. To a large extent, meeting these goals hinges on the development and implementation of technological innovation in the field of transportation.
Over the past few years, the revolution spurred by the penetration of advanced ICT (Information and Communications Technology) into the vehicle and transportation field has provided an opportunity for Israel to be a leader in this domain. Recent years have seen the growth of a prominent ecosystem in vehicle and transportation technologies in Israel. However, an active government policy is critical if breakthrough technologies are to improve local transportation. The implementation of innovative transportation technologies requires supportive regulation, uniform international standardization, monetary incentives, and the allocation of physical infrastructure.
In order to create suitable conditions for Israeli and foreign companies to work on Israeli’s transportation system, the MoT is tackling the issue on several fronts. Firstly, the Ministry established an organizational support infrastructure for the implementation of innovative transportation technologies in Israel. In early 2018, a senior manager of technologies and innovation in the transportation administration was appointed to follow technological developments in infrastructure and advanced autonomous vehicle systems, and to assist in their implementation in Israel.
Secondly, the Ministry is working to adapt Israel’s regulatory system to allow its knowledge-rich industry to develop and assimilate advanced systems in Israel. Committees of experts have been established, procedure manuals have been drafted, and regulations have been updated in order to facilitate progress from R&D to advanced stages, and from closed facilities vehicle testing to public roads. Thus far, test vehicles with installed autonomous driving systems, alternative navigation systems, advanced sensors, advanced cameras, as well as other features, have already received approval for use on public roads.
Furthermore, in early 2019, the MoT’s Planning and Infrastructure Administration will be launching two initiatives to promote the testing of advanced technologies in Israel. The Testing Center will examine developments by innovative companies in a natural, yet sterile environment, and will be managed and operated by the Ayalon Highway company. The center will be aided by a regulatory mechanism that allows the Transportation Supervisor to approve exceptions from regulations for testing purposes. The initiative is designed for mature innovative products that are ready to be tested in a normal environment, but do not meet transportation regulations.
However, local regulatory support is not enough – the development and assimilation of advanced transportation technologies requires uniform, standardized international regulation. The MoT and the Alternative Fuels and Smart Transportation Administration are promoting a platform for engaging in dialogue with regulatory bodies from EU states, the US, Asian countries, manufacturer representatives, and other entities in the automotive industry, worldwide. At the same time, MoT representatives have begun to take part in deliberations by the Un’s primary standardization committee held in Geneva.
Thirdly, the MoT is providing financing incentives for the development and assimilation of innovative technologies in the transportation field while offering pertinent regulatory support: In 2018, the MoT and the Innovation Authority launched a multiannual budgeted program to provide financial and regulatory support for the demonstration of transportation and infrastructure systems at their advanced development stages (pilots). Particular emphasis is placed on improving safety, reducing traffic congestion, and encouraging the use of public transportation. In an effort to advance the technological capabilities of the MoT’s infrastructure companies, the Ministry’s Planning and Infrastructure Administration will also fund the testing and implementation of their innovative technologies.