Cars on a highway [illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a bid to innovate Israel’s roads, the government on Sunday approved a National Plan for Smart Transportation.
The program, with an expected budget of NIS 250 million over five years, will be combined with the existing Alternative Fuels Initiative, to help position the country as a technological leader in transportation.
Among the key elements of the program will be field trials of autonomous vehicle technologies, as well as the creation of a research center together with the Council for Higher Education.
“I welcome this important step,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Israel has a relative advantage in the ability to create conceptual products, due to the business environment we have created here. Therefore, the government must allow this to grow and prevent over-regulation in this area.
“We did this in cyber, and we will also do so here. We will remove barriers to an industry that is developing quickly and will help implement smart transportation on Israel’s highways.”
Chairing the program’s steering committee will be Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eli Groner and Transportation Ministry director-general Keren Terner. The committee will also include representatives from the Finance Ministry’s budget department, the National Economic Council and the Israel Innovation Authority.
“Entire industries that have looked the same for 60-70 years are now on the verge of dramatic changes,” Groner said. “Just as smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, so too will smart transportation.
“Israel has an opportunity to play a significant role in this global market, which could contribute to major economic growth. We have a real chance to be a global leader in this field.”
In the autonomous vehicle sector, the committee will work to support the necessary experimentation to develop the industry, recommending methods of financing, construction and operation.
Central to the program will be research conducted together with the Council for Higher Education, as well as collaborations among academics, industry professionals, government bodies and entrepreneurs.
The program also emphasizes the advance of a variety of field trials and pilot projects of new technologies in the transportation system, in order to reduce congestion, traffic accidents and the use of petroleum fuels, as well as encourage travel on public transportation.
Other program elements include mechanisms for cooperation with relevant US government authorities and other international bodies, as well as worldwide marketing of Israeli industrial activity in smart transportation.
“Transportation technologies contributes to road safety, to easing traffic congestion and to the quality of the air we breathe,” said Transportation Minister Israel Katz. “The government and the Transportation Ministry will continue to invest in technological research and development for the benefit of all citizens.”