At the 12th annual Road User Charging Conference in Amsterdam, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) joined ministerial delegations and senior officials from across Europe and beyond to explore the latest thinking in the field, highlighting innovative case studies – including GNSS-based schemes. Participants heard from experts and peers on topics ranging from interoperability to time- versus distance-based charging, large-scale roll-outs, user acceptance and many others.
For the GSA, which manages the Galileo and EGNOS systems, finding the best way forward means exploiting new and powerful satellite-based services for fairer and more flexible and efficient road tolling.
A powerful solution
GNSS represents a powerful solution to many of the challenges of today’s road tolling operators, who need to know who is on a given road, for how long and over what distance – all with a very high degree of accuracy and reliability.
The message is getting through, with GNSS-based technologies making key inroads. The example of Slovakia is already well-known – the country managed to expand the length of roads covered by its charging scheme from about 2,500 km to about 17, 800 km within just three months, thanks to GNSS.
More systems coming
Following Slovakia’s successful design, other countries are in the process of implementing similar programmes. Belgium is set to begin implementing a GNSS-based heavy-vehicle tolling system in 2016. Recently, Lithuanian authorities have revealed that they are evaluating the different technologies for a new ‘countryside’ tolling scheme currently under design.
The GSA’s Alberto Fernandez-Wyttenbach says Bulgaria is supported by The World Bank in order to design a new system for launch in 2017, with GNSS as the preferred solution. “Initially, the country expects to apply the system to freight vehicles only, with other vehicles to be included in future stages, the last batch being passenger cars,” he says.
Meanwhile, in Hungary, the HU-GO distance-based electronic toll system covering around 20% of the national road network is increasing the number of registered Toll Declaration Operators (TDOs). It is the case of Siemens AG which recently announced the first Galileo-ready OBU in the Hungarian market.
Finally, Wyttenbach says that in Spain, private initiatives for smartphone- and GNSS-based road-user charging are underway. “Cintra and Ferrovial, under the ‘Satelise’ project, have developed a prototype technology platform that allows road tolls to be paid using an application for mobile terminals or GPS devices,” he says.
In terms of the total cost of implementation, the GSA says GNSS-based solutions are much cheaper and more flexible, allowing operators to modify virtually instantaneously which road segments are covered. This way they can easily enlarge or reduce charging schemes if and when needed, ultimately increasing the volume and efficiency of road transport.
Lower costs mean operators can charge less, getting more traffic back onto toll roads and/or raising more revenue to put towards further improvements – benefiting both the users and the public economy.
It makes sense for everyone to choose the same technology, so drivers can switch from one road-pricing scheme to another as easily as they ‘roam’ across borders on mobile phone networks.
Far and wide
The conversation at the RUC ranged beyond Europe’s borders, as Fernandez-Wyttenbach discussed some interesting results coming from Singapore and America that help to estimate the use of GNSS for congestion charging in Europe in a few years. Singapore is the first country in the world implementing a congestion pricing system based in GNSS while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently concluded the RoadRunner project. The project has developed a congestion-control system with a distributed, infrastructure-less vehicular app that combines ubiquitous smartphones with vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Tolling information is reported to a server through a cellular connection while multi-constellation GNSS based positioning provides a high degree of reliability.
All of this leads Fernandez-Wyttenbach to conclude: “Around the world, RUC is starting to look more and more like a technology-driven market, with GNSS-based technologies responding to the need for flexibility, rapid extensibility, easy and low-cost implementation and interoperability.”
European GNSS Agency (GSA) Market Development Officer Alberto Fernandez-Wyttenbach
Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you republish, we would be grateful if you could link back to the GSA website (http://www.gsa.europa.eu).