Participants at the ASECAP conference in Lisbon explored the role of road charging within a greener, more sustainable and safer road transport system. They also heard good news from the GSA about how GNSS-based schemes, utilizing Galileo and EGNOS, can help.
The GSA believes GNSS receivers, now standard equipment in cars and other vehicles, can deliver new and better services for road mobility – from energy-saving route guidance to ensuring the security of hazardous materials and enabling cheaper, fairer and more flexible electronic toll charging.
Speaking at ASECAP, the GSA’s Alberto Fernandez Wyttenbach told participants that GNSS technologies allow operators to easily and quickly modify which road segments are covered, thus increasing the volume and efficiency of freight transport and virtually instantaneously enlarging charging schemes when and if required. In Germany TollCollect now operates the largest on-board vehicle units (OBUs) fleet,” he said. “They understand the importance of innovation and thus the next OBU generation s will be Galileo-enabled.”
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Wyttenbach says that this is good news for Galileo, for businesses that rely on road transport and for the driving public. “The fact is that with multi-constellation GNSS, we don’t realise whether we are using Galileo satellites or GPS satellites,” he said. “Full interoperability means the more satellites the better. Drivers and toll operators who can use both systems will benefit in terms of better accuracy, reliability and robustness, including in difficult situations such as in urban canyons.”
Following the Singapore case, Wyttenbach also noted a number of European cities now evaluating GNSS-based solutions for urban congestion charging, including Brussels, Copenhagen and Budapest.
GNSS-based road charging entails lower costs for operators, so they can in turn charge less, get more traffic onto their toll roads and/or increase revenues to put towards new road projects.
For the GSA’s Fiametta Diani, interoperability among the various European road-charging schemes will be a key to success. Current systems encompass a wide array of often incompatible technologies, from manual toll collection and conventional plaza arrangements to all-electronic toll collection, multi-lane free-flow with DSRC-based vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, roadside gantry-based systems with cameras that take pictures of license plates, and many others.
Diani reported on the progress being made by the ASECAP-GSA Task Force, which is addressing, among other things, the question of interoperability. “We are not there yet, but a new generation of OBUs is coming that can combine functions, allowing us to foresee a day when cross-EU lorries won’t need two, three or six different units stacked up on their dashboards,” she said.
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The GSA is also working to help the increasing the number of countries and regions that are just now entering the road-tolling arena. These parties, essentially starting from scratch, have no ‘legacy’ systems to replace, so they can chose the kind of tolling system that makes sense today.
The GSA says it makes sense for everyone to choose the same technology, thus arriving at an interoperable European standard that allows drivers to seamlessly switch from one road-pricing scheme to another as easily as they now ‘roam’ across EU borders on mobile phone networks.
The GSA is also working with established operators, for whom adopting a GNSS-based approach is not a question of simply ‘switching over’, but instead means deconstructing existing and deeply rooted systems – many of which have been built up progressively over years and decades.
Work Goes On
ASECAP, the Association Européenne des Concessionnaires d’Autoroute et d’Ouvrages à Péages, includes 16 member countries and five associate member countries, with concessionaires overseeing more than 48,000 km of tolled roads and earning almost €28 million in total revenues per year. ASECAP road operators share a long-term vision for ever-increasing safety and efficiency and the highest possible quality of service for all road users.
The GSA is working closely with ASECAP, specifically under the ASECAP-GSA Task Force and the Regional EETS project, to understand how GNSS technology can bring added value to road infrastructure operators. For the GSA, as well as for a growing community of road transport stakeholders, European satellite navigation systems such as Galileo and EGNOS represent powerful new tools in the drive to meet global economic and social challenges, including the demand for mobility.
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Even with increasing road traffic causing traffic congestion, accidents and pollution, there is also good news coming from the road sector. For instance, the sector remainsone of the largest and most dynamic markets, representing a major business opportunity for GNSS technology applications.
Road charging is one area where Galileo and EGNOS can make a real difference, ensuring fair, flexible and equitable schemes for road project financing, reducing congestion and pollution, and saving lives.
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