E-toll: gate or GPS?

‘Our experiences show that kilometre-based tolling has been successfully applied in Europe for several years. One question regarding the Hungarian introduction of e-toll is the technology to be used. What is for sure is that the existing infrastructure must be completely restructured to make it suitable for the accurate electronic monitoring of motorway use. There are two ways to do this: installing gates with signal transmitters* or satellite systems that communicate with GPS signals.’ – said Bagossy Tamás, managing director of WebEye Hungary.

In Europe, the gate system is used in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, among others. ‘In case of control gates, motorway use is calculated with microwave signals. The receiver in the gate reads the data transmitted by the on-board unit in the vehicle, and based on this, it calculates the travelled distance and the proportional toll.’– Bagossy Tamás introduced the technology.

It has the advantage that it allows very precise measurement and its application area can be well defined on the road network. The signal receiver gates enable the control of travelled distances on the toll roads, and the toll to be paid can be accurately calculated accordingly. A disadvantage, however, is that it controls only the selected road stages, consequently, if drivers evade these, tracking the traffic becomes impossible. To prevent this, ‘No entry’ signs and regulations may be introduced; however, this does not always work in practice. Besides, the installation of the gates is a really costly and long process and as international experience shows, it is practically unusable on roads other than clearways because of the numerous crossroads and turnoffs.

The other solution, widely applied in Germany for instance, is the GPS technology, with localization performed through satellites. GPS- based vehicle monitoring is not a new technology; it has been used for years for tracking company fleets for example. Despite this, the idea of such measurement of motorway use has come up only recently.

‘The essence of the solution is that the on-board GPS equipment records the movement of the vehicle and invoicing is based on the cumulated data with the help of satellite tracking. The advantage of the system is that its introduction is easy and fast, only the on-board units need to be installed, which is already available in the majority of trucks. Its disadvantage is, however, that it is not as accurate as measurement with gates. Satellites might mistake non-toll roads for parallel toll roads, or invoice toll for vehicles on roads crossing the motorway, which need to be corrected subsequently.’- said Bagossy Tamás.

The introduction of the so-called free-flow tolling systems, where vehicles are not required to stop, has a relatively high start-up cost, at the same time, they make the jobs of drivers and the operator a lot easier. Instead of the advance purchase motorway vignette used so far, with the help of the built-in unit, tolls may be paid automatically or through collection terminals. Experiences in the EU have shown that electronic solutions make motorway traffic smoother and more economical in the long run. Concepts have arisen that environmental indicators should also be taken into account in setting tolls, but this has remained a theory so far.