National highways in India are poised to bid goodbye to toll plazas, with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) preparing to replace them with GPS-based tolling systems within the next two to three years. The project is aimed at reducing traffic congestions at toll booths and providing relief to motorists.
FASTag toll collection
Over the last year, the Indian Government has been pushing for the mandatory use of FASTag at National Highways, a radio-frequency identification (RFID) based Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system, to avoid paying highway toll fees in cash. However, implementation issues with the technology still persist, with truckers and motorists often stuck for hours at toll booths.
In order to address these issues, the NHAI is working with the Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL) and officials of 22 banks, to streamline the toll collection process. The implementation of the GPS-based tolling system is a step further, with the toll charge set to be deducted based on the movement of vehicles. This will help ensure that users only pay for the distance covered, unlike the flat rates in place currently.
How will GPS-based toll collection work?
FASTag already makes toll collection entirely automatic, with the charges deducted directly from the linked bank accounts of users. So, the new tolling system will bring about a free flow satellite-based ETC system that uses GPS and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). GPRS is already used to provide cellular-based data services by several telecommunication providers in India, and all commercial vehicles sold after 2019 are equipped with an inbuilt Vehicle Tracking System (VTS). As such, the GPS-based system will further help make toll collection more efficient, by allowing vehicle movements across the country to be tracked accurately.
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The digitalization of toll collection is nothing new; ETC has been in use in several foreign countries for years now. For instance, the Korea Expressway Corporation operates the hi-pass system for automatic toll collection on all national express roads and several BTO/BTL roads in South Korea. Japan implemented the ETC system back in 2001. Today, it not only covers all toll roads and tunnels in Japan, but it also records as many as 6,000,000 daily transactions, with a usage ratio of 90%!
ETC was first adopted at toll booths in Norway in 1986. By 1991, Trondheim in Norway became the world’s first city to implement an unaided full-speed electronic tolling, which significantly reduced delays due to toll payment.
Implementation in India
In India, the entire National Highway network will have to be geo-fenced for the GPS-based ETC to effectively monitor the entry and exit of vehicles. Meanwhile, India’s own geo-positioning system NavIC has recently been found to offer even more accurate location data than GPS, giving it even more impetus for nationwide adoption.
The way forward
However, before it can be implemented, concerns regarding enforcement and privacy will need to be addressed effectively, along with the storage and processing of geolocation data, since VTS devices provide accurate, real-time location. Hence, the prime task ahead now, will be to ensure the data captured and transmitted is stored safely and securely, while also being accessible by the tolling systems instantaneously.
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