Lack of interoperability is a significant issue in electronic road tolling systems. These systems need to be reliable, user friendly, and cost-efficient to enable the development and implementation of fair road-charging policies and to cope with future technical developments. A significant step forward for interoperability at EU level has been made with the publication in March of a new European Directive on the interoperability of electronic road tolling systems and the European GNSS (Galileo and EGNOS) is slated to play a major role.
Lower costs for European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) operators mean that charges can be lower, more traffic will flow on toll roads and/or more fees can be raised to improve road infrastructure; bringing benefits for operators, users and the public economy.
Interoperability of tolling systems also makes sense in terms of usability, with drivers able to seamlessly switch from one road-pricing scheme to another as easily as they ‘roam’ across borders on mobile phone networks.
The new EU Directive 2019/520 lays down the conditions necessary to ensure the interoperability of electronic road toll systems across the entire European Union road network, including urban and interurban motorways, major and minor roads, and other road infrastructure such as tunnels or bridges, and ferries. It will also facilitate the cross-border exchange of vehicle registration data to ensure collection of any road tolls due.
Toll technology choices
For all new electronic road toll systems that require the installation or use of an on-board unit (OBU) to carry out electronic toll transactions, the Directive stipulates the use of one or more specified technologies: satellite positioning, mobile communications, or 5.8 GHz microwave technology.
Any existing electronic road toll system that requires the installation or use of an OBU will also need to adopt one or more of these technologies if substantial technological improvements are carried out to the system.
In addition, any OBU using satellite positioning technology and placed on the market after 19 October 2021 will need to be compatible with the European GNSS positioning services provided by Galileo and EGNOS.
In fact, EGNOS and Galileo are already activated in over 70% and 60%, respectively, of GNSS-enabled on-board units for tolling of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in Europe today.
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.
In terms of the total cost of implementation, GNSS-based solutions are much more flexible and cheaper in the long term, 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 optimizing traffic and improving the efficiency of road transport.
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