There are certain sights and sounds that are comfortingly familiar. For some it may be the smell of a scented candle that confirms it’s Christmas, for others it could be the sound of someone’s voice to remind them of home. For a journalist in the smart mobility and ITS arena it isn’t a trade show until you’ve seen the Vitronic stand and sat down with a coffee and talked about the future.
Upon assuming the mantle of Vitronic CEO in March 2020, Daniel Scholz-Stein said: “We want to retain the values and spirit we’ve developed in the past and continue to develop them in the future.” The challenge of putting that into practice during a global pandemic was certainly not what Scholz-Stein had in mind for his first few months in the hot seat, but it if you are going to take over as CEO of one of the most respected companies in the ITS arena, perhaps at the outset of a “global pause” might be a fairly opportune place to start.
“Well, to be honest we didn’t have any more time on our hands than we had before the pandemic,” says Boris Wagner, Vitronic’s Head of the Traffic Business Unit. “Our business was still growing but obviously there were some challenges such as not seeing each other in person, particularly in project delivery phases, solving customer’s problems. All of a sudden everything has to be done remotely and virtually using Teams, in our case. It worked really well but time-wise it wasn’t as efficient as face-to-face dealings.
“We’re not just a service provider. We create and produce hardware and software and offer solutions to problems. From the hardware perspective we need materials from all over the world and they became, and in fact still are, hard to come by due to supply chain issues. So as the technology has evolved our company has evolved too.”
Vitronic, headquarted in Wiesbaden, Germany, are known for their speed enforcement and tolling solutions but now, as Wagner points out, Vitronic have positioned themselves in the machine vision and vehicle detection markets, showcasing the latest technological advances in AI and neural networks.
“We still have our traditional systems, but everything is going AI-based. We’re reacting to the change in mobility requirements in certain regions of the world. The culture of mobility is changing – there’s not the rush to learn how to drive when turning 17 as there was when I was younger, for example. Mobility demands are evolving so we have to evolve similarly. We have to reflect these changes in our product portfolio. We’re working more closely with universities and research establishments and whereas in the past we might have focused on classical road users, cars and trucks, we’re now distinguishing vulnerable road users – pedestrians and cyclists,” he continues. “With the move towards autonomous vehicles there has to be a greater focus on traffic management and roadside infrastructure in these future scenarios.”
Wagner does, however, sound one cautionary note.
“In two years’ time when we’re sitting here with you again I think there’s one thing that might have changed from today – and that’s the overemphasis on AI. It’s held up as the answer to everything and for us there’ll always be a physical element to what we do. Also, with the escalating fuel prices I think this will accelerate the move towards electric vehicles – or perhaps no vehicle. People may look to use public transport or e-bikes more readily if petrol and diesel prices keep increasing. At Intertraffic 2024 I think there will be more solutions to these problems. What there is at the moment is a lot of good ideas – we need solutions to protect vulnerable road users and new ways of managing traffic.”