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Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base
The Choice Of Technological Building Blocks
A technology perspective on road user charging reveals a long list of technology building blocks that can be combined to meet functional requirements defined by charging policies. It is important to recognize that policy objectives are the determinants of scheme design, which again is the driver of technology. Put simply, first define what the system is required to do, then consider the technology.
Current practice has shown that cordon charging systems in Singapore and Norway use fully electronic DSRC systems in which the vehicle has an on board unit. In Singapore this unit has a smart card inserted, whilst the Norwegian AutoPASS system relies on passive tags and an agreement for pre- or post payment set up between the charging authority and the customer. Vehicles detected without an OBU, or invalid smartcard or invalid agreement are photographed and enforced using ANPR solutions.
ANPR has shown tremendous growth lately, and are now used as the primary charging technology for the Stockholm congestion tax as well as for the London congestion charge. It is interesting to note that Stockholm used DSRC as the main source of detection technology during the trial. However, since the congestion charge is a tax, the tax authorities would need photographic evidence in case of appeals. Other deciding factors were high administrative costs for tags and improved reliability with camera detection (more than 93% read by OCR). Presently OBUs are only used to strengthen the identification for passages to and from Lidingö (Melander, 2008).
ANPR has been used successfully for detection and enforcement in London for a number of years, but Transport for London are carrying out technology trials with the aim of making the congestion charge more sophisticated and equitable. Future charges could be differentiated on factors such as type of vehicle, direction of travel, number of entries into the zone, distance travelled within zone and emission level of vehicle. The trials cover GNSS/GPS (satellite positioning, GSM (mobile phone) and DSRC (tag and beacon) (Kearns, 2008).
Distance based charging would need to use GNSS/CN to identify vehicles’ locations. It is likely that GNSS/CN systems will become the most widely used way to impose urban road charging in due course, particularly since they can also provide other services such as driver information systems.
The optimal mix of systems will be determined by local and national charging policies, and minimum interoperability requirements for travel on network of roads that have different policies for charging and enforcement. The choice between having and not having an OBU will depend on regulation, and the business case for scheme operators to encourage the use of OBU-based accounts. Regulation and interoperability will most likely blur the choice between DSRC and GNSS toward OBUs that embody all technologies.
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