A Emirhan Ozdemir takes a brief but fascinating look at the history of tolling – and Turkey’s unique place in it.
Tolling on highways is a necessity in today’s world, largely because of the fact that a highway with driver-friendly physical and technological conditions is not easy to maintain without any return of investment. Providing drivers with highways of highest quality, while pleasing them in terms of affordable toll rates, may be the key point among the fundamentals of operating a toll road.
Tollways are constructed considering the overall traffic flow as a basis. The first aim is to lower the complication at intense traffic zones. The first tollway was opened in 1921 in South Berlin, Germany, was called AVUS and was 9km long, yet this road was not open to daily vehicle traffic and was just being used as racetrack. On the other hand, the first tollway which was open to daily vehicle traffic had been initiated in Italy connecting Milano and Como, in 1924. After 1925, government and private sector members in Germany quickly started to construct tollways all over the country and then the trend started to spread around the World. The Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, the road that connects Europe to Asia, was actually a stretch of the first tollway in Turkey, which was opened in 1973.
BACK TO THE PRIMITIVE
Before the last decade, tolling was performed by human operators at cash-desks – a largely primitive solution to the problem of how money will be collected from drivers traveling on these costly highways. An increasing number of vehicles showed up with uncalculated and unexpected problems which urgently needed to be solved. One of the most significant of these problems was the traffic congestion at the tollbooths on account of the long queues. Entrance with magnetic tapes given by dispensers at entry lanes and tolling with these tapes at exit lanes was the first attempt to reduce the traffic congestion occuring around the tollbooth, but it was not enough to completely clear the congestion. Later, when ITS technology had become more widespread, tolling began to be executed by prepaid smartcards at entry and exit lanes which required drivers to make two stops at entry and exit gates. This helped a little bit, but it was still was not enough.
There was now a pressing need for a combination of tolling methods that would enable users not to stop at entry and exit gates but to pay on the move. This sounded a little bit unlikely as up to that point there was no technology which could make such a practice even remotely possible. However, thanks to the invention of Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies, the tolling world has been revolutionised. It allowed drivers to pay their toll at up to 40km/h without having to stop at a barrier or slow to a halt and hand over some coins. First, DSRC technology was used to allow tolling without pausing at tollbooths. The results were satisfactory and congestion was lowered to acceptable levels. DSRC was good, but even that wasn not enough for ensuring it was the technology of the future.
Compared with Passive RFID tags, DSRC transponders were expensive, too bulky and not adequately eligible for in-motion reading and by this stage prepaid Passive RFID tags had begun to be used in tolling projects. One of the first Passive RFID applications for electronic tolling in the world, was launched by Turkish company Vendeka IT Ltd in September 2012 on all highways and Bosphorus bridges in Turkey; this was called the ‘Fast Passing System’. The motto of the project was to enable users to pass faster along toll lanes. It worked and today passive RFID solutions for electronic tolling projects have become widespread.
Vendeka made a splash with Europe’s biggest and most successful Passive RFID Electronic Toll Collection Project (HGS) on Turkey’s highways and bridges (Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet) passing through Istanbul which connect Asia to Europe. The overall system architecture of a passive RFID electronic toll collection project is shown in the flow chart below.
Vendeka has been integrating new passive RFID technology within the scope of any toll/fare collection project independent from whatever the project requirements are. The primary goal is to be the key integrator when considering any kind of electronic toll collection project. Within the scope of this goal, they’re integrating custom solutions which may be used on any kind of vehicle. In addition, Vendeka also creates particular solutions for any specific target group. For example, GNSS can be used for tolling of trucks or vehicles such as half-tracks or logistics trucks. GNSS is used for electronic tolling by evaluating the position and checkpoint entry-exit data. It is not suitable for personal automobile usage, because of the fact that the in-built GPS system to be mounted in cars is not particularly cost-effective for end-users and it’s also not consistent with the principle of privacy
Vendeka specialises in custom-designed Passive RFID ETC solutions that are appropriate for any kind of vehicle. Turkey’s Passive RFID ETC system integrated by Vendeka also has the distinction of being the first ETC project that enables the tolling of any kind of vehicle using the highway, so that operators maintain maximum profit margins while at the same time sustaining customer satisfaction.
A Emirhan Ozdemir is Business Development Engineer at Vendeka