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The impact of digitalisation on mobility is monumental. Smart, connected vehicles are becoming a reality, self-driving cars are under development and new concepts such as car sharing are already in place. New players are entering the market alongside the established automotive industry, bringing with them experience from other sectors such as communications, payment methods and data management and processing.

This evolution is also reflected in Luxembourg. Known for decades as an automotive centre with companies like Goodyear, IEE, Carlex, Delphi and CEBI International, the country today also hosts an increasing number of innovative mobility start-ups. “New companies including, for example, electric scooter producer Ujet and e-payment specialist Mercedes Pay, are selling across the European market, and we are attracting international start-ups such as Civil Maps,” says Jean Schiltz, Deputy Director of Smart Mobility at the Ministry of the Economy. “Our own needs to develop and deploy new mobility solutions is a strong driver. Luxembourg is an attractive test lab as we are ready to put new initiatives into practice in order to solve our daily mobility problems.”

Automated driving across borders

Automated and connected driving might become a useful alternative for mobility in the future, but making it function in different countries is a challenge. Automated vehicles need to be able to manage local differences such as road markings and traffic signs. They are also dependent on uninterrupted connectivity, which is complicated to achieve when driving across or along national borders with frequent changes between mobile networks.

To help overcome these challenges, Luxembourg, France and Germany have created a cross-border digital testbed for automated and connected driving. “The testbed is an innovation platform open to all companies and researchers working on automated driving and related services,” says Christian Tock, Director of Sustainable Technologies at the Ministry of the Economy. “It has generated a lot of interest from international players developing mobility solutions for the European market.”

The testbed is an innovation platform open to all companies and researchers working on automated driving and related services.

The testbed consists of over 200 km of motorways and public roads, soon to be covered by 5G connectivity. “Due to legislative restrictions and liability risks in Europe, most of the development work with self-driving vehicles is done at closed R&D facilities, but their next step is to be out there on the roads,” says Joost Ortjens, Head of International Business Development – Automotive at Luxinnovation. “When this takes place, the testbed will be extremely useful.” In order to facilitate the use of the testbed, the government is working with its French and German counterparts to set up mutually recognisable testing authorisations that will be valid in the whole testbed region.

A campus for open innovation

Another hotspot for the sector, the Mobility Innovation Campus, is taking shape in Bissen, located 20 minutes north of Luxembourg City. Extending over 14 hectares, the campus will host start-ups as well as well-established automotive companies. Sensor technologies specialist IEE has already relocated its activity there, and Goodyear will soon follow suit with some 130 staff members focusing on the development of advanced mobility technologies.

“We want to create a location where companies are able to collaborate, leverage synergies and build a true community on a lively site characterised by open innovation,” comments François Knaff, Director for Industry at the Ministry of the Economy. “We hope that start-ups will partner with more mature companies and provide new technologies and know-how. We also aim to develop partnerships with universities and research centres to bring students and professors to the site.”

We want to create a location where companies are able to collaborate, leverage synergies and build a true community on a lively site characterised by open innovation.

A large collective building with incubator facilities as well as shared meeting rooms, a canteen and an events centre will be built in the next few years. Temporary offices for start-ups that want to move in immediately are already available. The campus itself will also be used for showcasing new technologies. “POST Luxembourg has selected the campus as one of five priority locations for installing 5G, so companies can develop applications and projects using 5G connectivity directly on site,” says Mr Knaff. “The University of Luxembourg has already started to conduct autonomous driving tests here.”

Processing big data

The collection, storing and processing of large amounts of data is central to smart mobility and autonomous driving. With its top-level data centres and high-speed connectivity, Luxembourg is particularly well placed in this area. “Companies will shortly be able to use our high-performance computer to analyse data,” Dr Tock points out.

Luxembourg is also one of five EU member states participating in the “Data for Road Safety” proof of concept project recently launched by the EU Data Task Force to improve road safety by sharing data generated by vehicles and infrastructure between countries and manufacturers. Luxembourg will manage, process and aggregate big data from Germany to be used for issuing safety-relevant traffic information to road users. “The collaboration builds on Luxembourg’s strengths in high-quality data transmission, hosting and valorisation services,” Mr Schiltz underlines.

Central but independent

Luxembourg’s geographical position offers another advantage for mobility solution developers. “It is a neutral location situated in-between two major automotive markets, namely France and Germany,” says Dr Tock. “We also work a lot with large automotive manufacturers in Europe, but we take a neutral stand in our relations with them.”

Luxembourg is close enough to really understand the needs of the market, but still with enough distance for start-ups to retain their independent, innovative mindset.

“Luxembourg is particularly interesting for companies that want to be close to leading German automotive industry players,” Mr Ortjens continues. “Luxembourg is close enough to really understand the needs of the market, but still with enough distance for start-ups to retain their independent, innovative mindset.”

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