“Race to Driverless Cars – How to win the Future of Automotive Industry?” – High-level working breakfast of the Permanent Delegation of Hungary to OECD and UNESCO

Ever since the turn of the decade, science and technology behind self-driven cars have constantly provided us with a sensation of being on the brink of breakthrough, and soon the roads would be flooded with automated cars. As a result, from experts to the media, everybody is eager to guess who will win the battle for autonomous vehicles and what a “driverless world” could be like. Larger automakers and technological companies are spending incredible amounts of money on developments, fearing that whoever stays out misses out. However, the rapid development of robotics and automation raises new labor market, regulatory, data security and skills issues. Therefore, although the goal seems to be within reach, we are not there yet. Furthermore, as in so many cases, the last miles might be the most challenging to take.

The main purpose of the working breakfast was to explore and discuss these challenges, with high level invitees like Mari Kiviniemi OECD Deputy Secretary-General, Andrew W. Wyckoff, Science and Technology Director, Monserrat Gomendió, Deputy Director for Education and Skills, and the Ambassadors of the OECD member states.

In his introductory remarks, Ambassador Dr. Zoltán Cséfalvay pointed out that there are two major challenges for the automotive industry: on one hand – building on digital platforms – the spreading of new community car schemes building, on the other hand the combination of conventional automotive manufacturing and digital technologies. He also referred to the fact that "the automotive industry is a driving force in Central and Eastern Europe, so it is a key priority for the region to keep up the pace with vehicular automation."

Andrew W. Wcykoff argued that "digitization and new revolutionary technologies will fundamentally change the existing systems of production", resulting in the vehicle turning into a "service package" and the enforceability of intellectual property rights becoming a central issue. According to the Director, two trends make digital technologies transformational: the first is the massive reduction in the costs of the technology, which has enabled wider diffusion; the second is the combinatorial nature of these different digital technologies and their convergence with other technologies.
Dr. László Palkovics – Minister of State for Education and acting Government Commissioner – presented the national and international research and development projects that, in a close cooperation between government, universities and large companies, contribute to Hungary’s efforts in becoming one of the European hubs for the development of autonomous and electric vehicles. Hungary has very good chances because, besides the largest car manufacturers, 15 of the 20 largest automotive suppliers in the world have branches in Hungary, and the vehicle industry, including suppliers, employ a total of more than 140,000 people. In his presentation, Dr. Palkovics also pointed out that mobility and the emergence of self-employed cars are social demands that need to be satisfied. However, it is a complex challenge since one has to take into account all environmental, demographic, road safety and management, technical and non-technical, and human factors. Furthermore, the participants learned about the new vehicle test track program Zalaegerszeg (a town in Western Hungary), which is a unique initiative in itself. The project has been approved by the Government last year, and the track has been designed to be able to address all test levels of the development process, including the automated and connected vehicle tests, including pass car, and commercial vehicles.
After the presentations, both the OECD experts and the Member States praised the Hungarian program, highlighting that the government involved higher education institutions and enterprises in the development of the project. In addition, everyone agreed that OECD should support Member States in developing a better regulatory environment, creating international standards and modernizing educational and training systems.
Zoltán Cséfalvay - András Hlács