Road toll schemes have been on the agenda of European countries ever since the passing of Directive 2004/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council. Implementation of this Directive has been patchy to date but it seems bound to be taken up eventually by all European countries.
Under this directive road pricing is obligatory only for major-road use by heavy vehicles, those that wear down the infrastructure most quickly and cause most congestion, pollution and noise. Application to all vehicles does seem to be a logical development in the end, however, to ensure better financing of road maintenance and traffic management.
The abovementioned Directive cites two possible technological solutions for setting up road toll systems. The first is dedicated short-range communications, DSRC, under which each vehicle is fitted with a small piece of onboard equipment and payment is activated whenever this equipment is detected by a roadside unit. To enable distance-based tolling, one roadside unit has to be set up in each direction and road section where there is an entrance or exit. This is the system currently used by Via-T in Spain and is the best solution for private toll roads where the number of said entrances and exits is fairly small. Countries like the Czech Republic and Austria have also opted for this solution for their national road pricing system.
The second technology cited by the Directive is the joint use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems, GNSS, (GPS or Galileo in the future) and mobile communications. In this case the onboard unit (OBU) is more complex, since it needs to detect road use in its own right based on estimated positions and without the aid of roadside units. This is the technology that has been selected for the national tolling system in two countries with Europe’s biggest motorway networks, Germany and France, with 12,500 and 15,000 km, respectively. It is also the technology used in the Slovak system. This technology was riskier when set up Germany 7 years ago but has by now been developed to fuller maturity.
Several factors have to be taken into account when deciding on the technology to be used in any national system but it would seem to be clear that the overriding factor in the final decision should always be the lowest possible implementation and running costs, not only in initial set-up but also in any further developments afterwards. On this criterion the best national tolling system for heavy vehicles in Spain would seem to be the same GNSS technology used in the abovementioned European countries.
The industry producing the onboard GNSS equipment is still quite small and very much focused on specific solutions for each system. GMV, on the back of an ambitious R&D plan, has now transferred to electronic tolling its wealth of experience in satellite navigation and the design and development of onboard equipment for diverse road- and rail-transport applications. The result is a GNSS-based OBU family for electronic tolling (including U10T equipment and U20T equipment).
U1oT onboard unit
The U10T is an onboard unit designed to meet applicable European standards and provide the various GNSS-based electronic tolling functions (detection of virtual roadside units, precise calculation of distance travelled, enforcement, etc). To facilitate control (or enforcement) tasks, the U10T unit includes a DSRC (5.8GHz) module that can also be used as DSRC tag for electronic tolling purposes, compatible with different European systems and standards (e.g.: ViaT).
Clear marketing opportunities for all this onboard equipment are now in the offing with the possible opening up of existing systems to independent OBU suppliers and the probable setting up of road toll systems in other countries like Belgium, Slovenia and Spain.
Author: Sara Gutierrez
Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV