The Greek philosopher Heraclitus believed that change is central to the universe. This describes the tolling industry with the technological advancements (transponders, vehicle classification and detection, and video) over the past 20 years. We also are moving from gated toll plazas to open road tolling to all electronic tolling, from HOV to managed lanes, and from local agency to national interoperability. So, what advancements are expected in the near future and in the next decade? Let’s take a look at a few:
In MAP-21, Congress mandated national interoperability by October 2016. In essence, a single toll registered account/tag can be used on all tolling roads in the US. The key topics being discussed are:
- ETC Protocol(s)
- Business rules
- Regional HUBS
- Toll Guarantee
- License Plate Database
A major effort by automobile manufactures is to improve the safety of travel by developing communication links between vehicles and its surroundings. This is being advanced in three areas: Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I), Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), and autonomous vehicles.
- Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) – Technologies that allow roadside devices to communicate wirelessly with vehicles and warn drivers of critical safety issues. In short, the vehicle communicates with its surrounding to provide and receive data to warn drivers if there is an imminent safety issue, such as roadway hazards, intersection safety, etc.
- Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) – With this technology, vehicles communicate data (speed, acceleration, braking, position, etc.) to other vehicles in its vicinity. Visual and audial warnings along with seat vibrations can advise the driver of impending concerns from rear end crashes to lane merging.
- Autonomous Vehicles – These vehicles are self-driving and require human input to navigate by sensing its surroundings with the use of radar, LIDAR, GPS, and other technologies. Most automobile manufactures (foreign and domestic) and many technology firms (Google, Apple) are developing and testing these vehicles.
Road Usage Charging (RUC)
RUC or Mileage Based User Fees (MBUF) are sustainable finance tools that can replace or augment existing gasoline and diesel taxes. The road usage fees can be based upon miles traveled (flat rate per mile) or include other factors, such as region, emissions, and time of day. These fees could even help the consumer by providing traffic or routing information, weather updates, fleet tracking, driving habits reporting, and auto theft recovery.) According to the Council of State Governments, the following states are exploring or have studied the RUC are:
Agencies, car manufactures, policy developers, and technology giants are all contributing to advances in finance, technology, and customer service in our industry. These are exciting times for the tolls industry. I can’t wait to see what’s over the horizon in the coming years and decades.