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TECHNOLOGY All-electronic tolling

“The ability to share vehicle information across states would significantly improve the efficiencies of identifying cars without tags, but that solution is much more of a political hurdle”

way safety. Thanks to these proven efficiencies and positive results with AET, it has declared that every future toll road will be all-electronic. The accuracy of vehicle identification also contributes to

the profitability of AET. CTRMA has achieved 99.97 per cent accuracy among the 6.9m transactions each year, thanks to the free-flow technology that combines automated vehicle identification, vehicle class, video and violation images.

CTRMA has achieved 99.97 per cent accuracy among nearly 7m transactions each year

cash lanes along the road and implement an all-electric sys- tem to reduce congestion and save money. The project used a combination of electronic toll collection, open road tolling/ free-flow zones and video tolling. This was one of the first all-electronic toll collection systems in the US. CTRMA required the tolling system to read two differ-

ing, but compatible tag types: battery tags and sticker tags. Each tag operates at different power levels and distinct read ranges. Schneider Electric developed a specialized algorithm to refine the accuracy of tag assignment by reporting the relative speed and location of the tag. This allows the system to determine when the tag passes under the antenna with a very high level of precision, and provides CTRMA with an extremely accurate tag assignment. This data collection has also solved the issues of reader tuning for different tag types and virtually eliminated tag read assignment inaccuracies.

BIG SAVINGS IN TEXAS CTRMA is now able to accurately monitor toll systems operations and maintenance management to ensure reli- ability and accuracy of the entire toll system. Tolling is a key funding tool for state transportation projects, and enormous costs have been avoided with the AET system: CTRMA estimates that US$1m–US$2m has been saved solely from the 183A project. These savings have been used to extend 183A sixteen

miles and add AET to a second road, 290 East. In fact, not only has the increased savings and profits from the AET sys- tem been used for additional infrastructure projects, but for community betterment as well: CTRMA has expanded the HERO program throughout the area, which provides free roadside assistance and aid to stranded motorists, aiming to continually minimize traffic congestion and improve high-


THE ROAD AHEAD The biggest challenges in the next several years will be con- tinuing to innovate tolling solutions that are flexible enough to handle the business rules for video billing and a diverse set of configurations. Auto match, the ability of the OCR software to correctly

identify a vehicle, will also continue to improve. Schneider Electric is working on even faster and more accurate iden- tification of vehicles and matching them through features other than the license plate. License plates may be dirty or hard to capture at times, or difficult for a computer to read because of each state’s differing colors and graphics. Using other distinguishing marks on the car is one way in which the vehicle’s identity can be determined and billed appropri- ately. This also will help with the challenge of appropriately charging non-local drivers or drivers who do not have a tag. The ability to share vehicle information across states

would significantly improve the efficiencies of identifying cars without tags, but that solution is much more of a politi- cal hurdle than a technology one: Politicians will need to agree upon the parameters for sharing data between agen- cies. Local agencies and the software industry will need to communicate the huge efficiency and cost-saving benefits that will result for taxpayers when this type of information can be exchanged. The popularity of AET will not go away any time soon.

The cost savings are too immense and the efficiencies are too great for municipalities to ignore this solution. Despite the stall in toll road innovation in the first few thousand years, the pace of changes and efficiencies are only likely to speed up in the near future.

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 Darby Swank is US director of electronic tolling solutions at Schneider Electric (formerly Telvent) Vol 8 No 3 North America |||||||||||||||||

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