Smart Mobility from Amsterdam going global

How do we ensure mobility in our cities of today and the future? This question is key for the smart mobility projects of Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch agency for Public Works and Water Management. Ronald Adams, Project Manager Smart Mobility at Rijkswaterstaat, recently visited China to explore possibilities for cooperation. In the Netherlands, he is in charge of the successful 'Amsterdam Practical Trial', where theory on smart mobility is translated into the real world: “The way we drive cars is changing quickly, with innovations ranging from self-driving cars to smart navigation apps. By responding to these developments in time, we can ensure our cities remain livable.”

The ring roads around the Dutch capital Amsterdam are well known for their traffic jams during rush hour. As such, the Smart Mobility project of Rijkswaterstaat called ‘Amsterdam Practical Trial’, launched over ten years ago, focused on one goal: improving the traffic flow on the Amsterdam ring roads. The project started with research papers, theories and policy notes, aiming to put these into practice. Ronald: “We work towards a future where cars, traffic lights and information signs are perfectly aligned. We work towards this by putting research into practice, by partnering up with both scientific institutes and the private sector.”

People often choose the standard routes when they go from home to work. But if everyone does this, traffic jams are inevitable. “This is why we started to work on a theory by the University of Delft, which said that the traffic flow can be reduced by setting up ramp metering systems at the ring road access points. By optimizing the time it takes to send data from the traffic measurement system to these ramp metering systems, we’ve been able to ensure optimum traffic flow.”

However, Ronald is convinced that realizing Smart Mobility is not something which the public sector can achieve by themselves. “The cooperation between the public and private sector is essential. Let me explain this: A car accident happened on the way on the south side of the city. Through out-car technology we can quickly register the incident and display warnings on roadside banners or change dosage at traffic lights. This is something Rijkswaterstaat can do. At the same time, though private sector cooperation, we can access in-car technology so people receive warnings on their smartphone apps & navigation system or their social media to avoid the roads. This can really make a difference during big events.”

This private-public cooperation is what makes Amsterdam Practical Trial very special. “Though we started involving private parties by offering financial incentives, we are now seeing that this project is relevant enough for private parties to put time and effort into it without any direct financial gains. We are offering them a platform for innovation.” Ronald visited China to explore the opportunities for international cooperation when it comes to smart mobility solutions. “We have optimized our theories and solutions and are clearly seeing the results in the Netherlands. We're now looking where we can share our experiences. Again we really focus on the public private cooperation. After all, the innovative technology of Dutch businesses involved is essential to realize such projects abroad. A consortium of our partners has already won a large tender in Copenhagen. But we're also offering advice on linking the public, private and education sector,” says Ronald.

Though the project is relevant for many countries, the ambition to cooperate with China comes as no surprise, Ronald explains. “We already have a Memorandum of Understanding with China when it comes to infrastructure and water management. Also, there is a lot of exchange between Universities. It's great to meet partners here in China who studied at our Dutch partner the University of Delft before. Of course, the next step is to also bring in the private sector and see how we can adjust Dutch innovations for the Chinese system.”

About Amsterdam Practical Trial

The Amsterdam Practical Trial tests new and improved services that integrate innovative systems on roads and in cars for road users. The objective is to improve traffic flow, make traffic safer and help make cities cleaner. For more information visit