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TECHNOLOGY All-electronic tolling


Better late than never T


Darby Swank celebrates a toll road innovation – albeit after 3,000 years


he following scenario is all too familiar to many of us: We’re cruising along in our cars, making good time on our way to a meeting, only to be slowed down by


the site of a behemoth structure looming on the horizon: we’re on a toll road. We frantically search our pockets, car consoles and cup holders hoping to find enough change to throw in the basket and get the green light to continue our interrupted journey. The toll road concept dates back at least 2,700 years with


tolls being paid by travelers using the Susa-Babylon High- way. Although our modes of transportation have gotten faster, our methods of payment have hardly changed from the typical barrier and cash system: Slow down your vehicle, hand over your cash and continue on your way.


FINALLY, SOME INNOVATION In humanity’s nearly 3,000 years of using toll roads, we are finally starting to see some true advancement in how com- muters pay their fare. One of the most cost-efficient ways is the all-electric toll (AET) system. With this system, tolls are collected electronically by capturing data from a car’s toll tag and then charging the drivers’ account accordingly. There is no need for cars to slow down, employ a person to handle cash, construct expensive facilities, equipment or safety precautions that are needed with manual toll roads. Not only does this save a tremendous amount of money, but driver safety is also vastly improved by avoiding the need to slow down on busy roads – not to mention the fuel and emissions savings from more consistent highway speeds. In short, AET systems are an extraordinary leap forward in toll road efficiency. The best AET systems on the market provide a complete


management platform and real-time diagnostics for tolling networks. For example, Schneider Electric’s SmartMobility Tolling is the pulse of a tolling system. It collects data from the entire toll network and all systems for robust histori- cal analysis, allowing users to build an integrated customer service and violations/video processing tool. Although the vast majority of vehicles passing through AET systems will have a toll tag, there will be some cars that do not. In these instances, the system can capture an image of the license plate and other distinguishing features on the vehicle and run this data through optical character recognition software (OCR). The OCR then compares the image with a state data-


30 thinkinghighways.com Vol 8 No 3 North America


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