Despite the growing popularity of electronic toll collection (ETC) systems, there are still regulatory, technological and social challenges that must be overcome.There are many moving parts to deploying an electronic toll collection (ETC) system. From finding the right components to meeting different regulatory requirements, overcoming these challenges are the first steps to deploying a successful smart toll collection system.
Interoperability is the biggest challenge from the technological side, according to José Luis Añonuevo, GM of Traffic Management Systems Operations at Indra, as there are many components that make up an ETC system.
Such a system requires that the equipment on-board in the vehicle (i.e., the tag); electromechanical equipment on the road (e.g., gantry, antenna that communicates with the tag, classification and vehicle recognition system, reading logic of the vehicle); adequate networks and communications to support the level of transactions; and information processing and management system all work together. Solutions that facilitate the integration of technologies are able improve the user experience, reduce highway traffic congestion, and create fuel savings, which also contributes to a reduction in pollution.
Benoît Rossi, Director of Business Development and Marketing for EMEA at Emovis explained, however, that “the main challenges lie not so much in the technology, but more in the regulatory frameworks (e.g., how to enforce toll violators, how to get the license plates data from out of state drivers), the heterogeneity of the toll systems (i.e., lack of standards) and of course the social acceptability.”
Justin Hamilton, Product Manager at Kapsch TrafficCom believes the challenges for all countries can be distilled into two main components.
The first being how to maintain levels of funding for road building and maintenance. Hamilton noted that fuel tax revenues have been the historic means for road infrastructure financing. However, “in an era of greater fuel efficiency and the growth of electric and alternative fueled vehicles, which typically receive both subsidies and do not pay any gas tax…this has led to a significant decline in fuel tax revenues across almost all developed economies,” he said. “This problem is perhaps most pronounced in the U.S. where the rate of federal tax on diesel and gasoline has not increased since 1993.”
Secondly, Hamilton pointed to how to fund the building of new roads, bypasses, bridges and tunnels “in an era of continuously tight government budgets and competition for spending from other departments such as health and education.” This challenge is particularly noticeable in countries witnessing a rapid increase in vehicle ownership and use (e.g., India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Chile, etc.).
These issues can be dealt with by linking road tolling and revenue collection with other, complimentary, intelligent transport solutions, such as weigh in motion (WIM) for heavy vehicles, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication (V2I) and congestion management, Hamilton added. “WIM integration into an electronic tolling enforcement environment provides a more accurate vehicle classification scheme and the basis for a real weight-based tolling.”
The use of dynamic pricing to influence traffic flow and levying a toll at specific times of the day is another way toll operators are collecting revenue, while at the same time combating highway congestion.
Social acceptability is also a major concern hindering ETC deployment. “Public opinion is often critical toward the introduction of new tolling systems as they increase costs of driving for private car owners and companies,” explained Michael Leyendecker, Director of Tolling Sales for Europe at Vitronic Machine Vision. “It is therefore crucial that transportation agencies communicate why the introduction is eventually beneficial for car owners and for companies.”
Additionally, Rossi mentioned that the cost of operation must make sense from an economic point of view. “If the costs of collection are too high compared to the expected toll revenues, one has to rethink the mobility pricing policy.”