A powerful solution

Features

The use of global navigation satellite systems is growing across Europe and beyond

GNSS represents a powerful solution to many of the challenges faced by 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 on board unit 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 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 conference ranged beyond Europe’s borders, as Fernandez-Wyttenbach discussed some interesting results from Singapore and America that could 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 Road Runner 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.”

Case study
ERP in Bulgaria: First steps

Paper, time based vignettes were introduced on Bulgarian roads in 2004 for trucks, construction machines and wheeled tractors with two or more axles and passenger vehicles with up to eight plus one seats. The system was valid across the national road network, with the exception of ring roads within populated areas as well as local street networks. “The annual revenue collected from the vignette charges were in the average amount of about BGN 200 million (€102 million). These funds turned out to be insufficient for the qualitative maintenance and repairs of the entire national road network in the country in conformity with the adopted national and European norms and standards”, explained Miroslav Cenov, head of department at the Road Infrastructure Agency.

Outlining their vision for future toll collection in Bulgaria, Cenov advised delegates at the annual road user charging conference that an electronic collection system was being planned. “The electronic systems for collection of a charge for a distance passed shall use one or more of the following technologies: positioning through a satellite, mobile communications in conformity with standard GSM-GPRS (reference GSM TS 03.60/23 060) and microwave technology 5.8GHz.”

As the first step towards achieving this change, the Road Infrastructure Agency signed an amendment for the provision of consultancy services with the World Bank on 13th February 2015. The agreement provided for the elaboration of an overall vision for the introduction of electronic tolling and the provision of EETS. “The agreement signed is the first serious step to the introduction of tolls in Bulgaria. By the end of 2015, the [World Bank] shall make an analysis for the possibilities and the variants for its introduction”, added Cenov.

According to the agreement, the World Bank team will deliver an overall vision, including a working plan, business model, system specifications and potential variants. “After a detailed analysis of the traffic is made and the vision for the introduction of the electronic toll system is developed it will be clear what type of system will be the most appropriate and effective for the country. The difference between the available and the needed budget for the construction and maintenance of the national road network in the country should be covered in this manner.”

Case study
Solid figures in Hungary

HU-GO, Hungary’s distanced based ETC system was introduced on 1st July 2013 following a record breaking implementation period of less than three months. More than 6,500km, 20.87 per cent, of the country’s roads are now tolled. The scheme includes a number of innovative features including flexible route tickets for occasional users and an open platform for all GPS based fleet management providers. The open platform removes the need for a pre-financed, state funded OBU solution, as is the case in other distance based projects. Enforcement is provided by ANPR gantries situated across the road network, in addition to 60 dedicated police vehicles.

Since launching the system, the number of registered vehicles, OBUs and users has grown to 159,856, 88,166 and 45,142 respectively. As a significant transit country, it is unsurprising that 52 per cent of declared tolls are made by foreign vehicles, with the majority hailing from neighbouring countries such as Romania, Poland and Slovakia. The majority of sales, 52 per cent, have come through resellers, with the remaining 48 per cent handled by direct bank transfer (29 per cent), online purchases (13 per cent) and the customer service centre (6 per cent). Despite the growing ubiquity of smartphone technology, the sales rate through the HU-GO mobile app stands at less than one per cent. “The conclusion is that it is necessary to improve fuel car acceptance both online and through application”, says Zoltan Varga, director of road charging at the State Motorway Management Company. In the first 18 months of operation, the system has generated €825.7 million in revenue on the back of a one-time investment of €72 million, 14 per cent of the annual revenue. Operational costs are running at a steady €33 million, roughly six per cent of the annual revenue.

Case study
First congestion system in the world goes for GNSS

After ten years of research and development and testing the world’s first congestion pricing system was launched in Singapore in 1998. Approximately one million users pay flat fees at charging points located across the road network, in addition to 96 gantries installed on expressways, major arterial roads and throughout the central business district. “ERP I is now 17 years old. The technology is reaching its end of life and maintenance costs are growing significantly”, explains Norbert Schindler, global sales manager at Siemens Electronic Tolling. “ERP II is now being executed by the Singapore authorities in order to pursue new transport policies that an infrastructure based system cannot meet.” ERP II is a flexible GNSS based charge, which will levy usage fees according to distance travelled, time and place.

However, given the prevalence of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings throughout Singapore there are specific challenges if only a single satellite constellation is used – a phenomenon known as ‘urban canyons’. “With combined GPS and GLONASS twice as many satellites are in view, making a good position possible”, advises Schindler. Trips taken with only either GPS or GLONASS are likely to result in unclear results and potentially dissatisfied users.

Article taken from the April 2015 issue of RUC Magazine