Talking Dutch: Look, no hands


According to the motoring organisation VAB, drivers in Flanders aren’t yet ready to surrender control of their vehicles and join the self-driving car revolution

Motoring organisation VAB says Flanders isn’t ready for a driverless car. Would you take one for a spin?

Derek Blyth on driverless cars

I was a bit surprised when I read the headline in De Standaard – Vlaming is niet klaar voor zelfrijdende auto – the Flemish aren’t ready for the self-driving car. What is wrong with the Flemish, I wondered.

The statement was made by Maarten Matienko of the motorists’ organisation VAB in response to a new initiative in the Netherlands to test out driverless cars. So the Dutch can handle it. Why not the Flemish? 

Voorlopig is het volgens VAB vooral het psychologisch aspect van de autobestuurder dat maakt dat die nog niet klaar is om de controle over zijn voertuig af te staan – at the moment, according to VAB, the main reason drivers aren’t ready to surrender control of their vehicles is psychological.

What on earth do they mean by that?

De consument zal zo’n zelfrijdend systeem vandaag snel uitschakelen – the consumer of today would just disconnect such a self-driving system. Het grijpt te fel in op de keuzevrijheid van de gebruiker – it impinges too much on user’s freedom of choice.

Aha. So it’s all about freedom. But the Flemish MP Joris Vandenbroucke was quick to reject this argument. Als regio met het grootste mobiliteitsprobleem van Europa moet Vlaanderen mee op de kar springen in de ontwikkeling van de veelbelovende technologie van de zelfrijdende auto – as the region with the worst mobility in Europe, Flanders has to jump on the bandwagon in developing this promising new technology, he told parliament. 

Stuck in the slow lane

We profileren ons als speerpuntregio voor onderzoek en ontwikkeling en we hebben een gigantisch mobiliteitsprobleem – we promote ourselves as a state-of-the-art region for research and development and yet we have a massive mobility problem, Vandenbroucke continued. We mogen nu niet op de rem gaan staan – We mustn’t now put our foot on the brake.  

The Flemish have also come to realise that they will be stuck in the slow lane as the Dutch and Germans overtake them with the new technology. In de ons omringende landen wordt volop ingezet op proefritten met zelfrijdende auto’s – they are working flat out in neighbouring countries on pilot projects involving self-driving cars.

België dreigt achterop te raken doordat testritten hier niet toegelaten zijn opde openbare weg – Belgium is in danger of being left behind because test drives are not permitted here on the public roads.    

Flanders’ transport minister agrees that Belgium needs to shift up a gear. Minister van Mobiliteit Ben Weyts wil ook in Vlaanderen werk maken van een proefproject met zelfrijdende auto’s – mobility minister Ben Weyts also wants Flanders to begin a pilot project using self-driving cars.

It looks like Flemish drivers might in future be asked to give up a little control in order not to be left on the side of the road. 

photo courtesy Google

Traffic in Flanders

Thousands of commuters and foreigners pass through Brussels and Flanders each day, and the two regions have suffered from heavily congested traffic and long and frequent traffic jams for years – with no end seemingly in sight.
Record - According to the 2013 report from traffic information platform Inrix, Brussels and Antwerp have the most traffic congestion of any city in Europe and North America.
Calendar - October is the worst month of the year for traffic jams.
Causes - Year after year, heavy snowfall and railway strikes lead to monster traffic jams. Heavy congestion, infrastructure works and multi-lane accidents cause the more ordinary daily tailbacks.
1 285

largest area covered in traffic ever recorded in Belgium in kilometres


time Antwerp drivers spend in gridlock per year in hours

10 000

traffic diversions in Flanders per year