Electronic toll collection is going to be a vital component in advancing the road infrastructure of India, writes Pratap Vikram Singh.
The Government of India has initiated work on Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) and to some extent on Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS).
Describing the ETC system, a NHAI official said, â€œElectronic Toll Collection (ETC) is a technology that supports electronic payment of highway tolls. ETC systems use vehicle-to-roadside communication technologies to perform an electronic monetary transaction between a vehicle passing through a toll plaza and the toll collection agency. ETC equipment can take the place of a human toll collector who manually collects tolls at tollbooths. In addition, it allows such transactions to be performed while vehicles travel at near highway cruising speed.â€
Taking an overview of the ETC deployment worldwide, we observe that US and Japan started using ETC (an integral part of any Intelligent Transportation System) way back in 2001 and are the first few countries to deploy these technologies. Europe followed suite, implementing ETC in 2003-04. Besides, countries like Korea, China and Vietnam went in for the same.
As far as India is concerned, we have been trying for the last three years to opt for a technology that can transform the existing manual systems that are causing toll fee leakages, time loss through queues, unnecessary oil consumption and pollution of the environment. Due to certain constraints, the ministry of road surface and transport has failed to zero in on the exact technology for the countryâ€™s ETC system. The concerned authorities are finding it difficult to choose between infrared and passive DSRC (microwave technology).
How it works
When a vehicle with an On Board Unit (OBU) (a tag that is fixed to the windshield of a vehicle) approaches an entry toll gate, the OBU receives a request from the Road Side Unit (RSU) (equipment that is mounted at the top of a gantry) and responds by sending back the information such as the registration number and type of the vehicle.
At the exit gates, the same process is repeated and then the information collected by the RSU is sent to the central Processing System, which then calculates the toll amount and forwards the result to the RSU.
After getting the information, the RSU deducts an amount from the balance recorded in the OBU.
The primary concern for the ETS in India is over the decision on which technology should be adoptedâ€”microwave or infrared. Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has flown tenders for the ETC twice and both times, the two vendors involved (Kapsch, the one supporting the microwave technology and Efkon that supports the infrared technology) have raised reservations and alleged the technology supported by the other vendor as not suitable on grounds of interoperability and its appropriateness for India. Consequently, no progress has been made so far, though now the issue is with the Ministry and as per NHAI official the issue should get resolved in the next six months.
Evaluating both technologies in terms of the standards that they follow, Pushkar Kulkarni, CEO, Efkon India, said, â€œActive DSRC, which is now being covered under the umbrella of the CALM standard that encompasses several media including Infrared, Microwave, Millimeter wave, Cellular etc. works on the principle whereby the Road Side Unit and the Onboard unit are active and intelligent with the memory to do a handshake.â€
He added, â€œThe active DSRC standard, CALM, has several advantages over the passive DSRC CEN 278 standard in terms of data rate (min. of 1Mbps vs. 256 kbps), multiple applications use the same OBU, multiple media interfaces instead of the singular microwave interface etc. In summation, the adoption of CALM standard is most suitable for India. The Bureau of Indian Standards has already adopted the CALM IR standard in India from ISO.â€
Sidelining concerns regarding adoption of the CEN standard, Sachin Bhatia, Director, Kapsch metro JV, said, â€œThe CALM infrared technology is not standardised, and so not in use in the same order of magnitude as the CEN DSRC. CALM standard relies on 5.8 MHz DSRC as well and uses the work of CEN TC278 therein. Infrared technology is just an exotic communication channel, that has been designed for applications other than tolling, but is also used in toll systems, as in the German Truck Tolling with a serious delay of introduction and tremendous loss of money for the state of Germany.â€
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AUTHOR: Pratap Vikram Singh
DATED: 6th December 2008