The use of GNSS systems (global navigation satellite systems, like GPS, Galileo and EGNOS) for electronic road tolling systems is part of a growing trend in Europe.
As a matter of fact, GNSS can be used to manage more effectively the growing traffic congestion on Europe’s roads. About 10% of Europe’s roads are currently considered as congested. As the demand on Europe’s road transport network increases, governments are under pressure to invest more in managing traffic and improving the infrastructure.
Coping with growing road use requires balancing traffic along major routes and modifying driving habits to eliminate congestion points.
The decision by the Dutch government to implement a national road pricing scheme based on satellite navigation indicates that GNSS can become the leading technology to solve these issues.
The Netherlands announced in November 2009 that it would begin introducing a pay-as-you-go road pricing system in 2012, starting with freight traffic. Later that year, all passenger cars will be phased in, until national road pricing is fully introduced in 2016. The system substitutes current road and vehicle taxes. In fact, rather than increasing the total tax take from drivers, the system will raise the same amount of revenue while shifting journeys to less congested routes and times and on to public transport.
The system, the first universal road pricing scheme in the world to be based on satellite navigation, will become a reference for other countries seeking to introduce innovative traffic management initiatives, with road pricing as a means of paying for infrastructure, reducing traffic congestion and cutting down on the environmental impact of road transport.
“GNSS is the most efficient solution when road pricing is applied to large road networks or to specific vehicles types,” says Fiammetta Diani, Market Development Officer with the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA). “In fact GNSS strongly reduces the infrastructure investment required and ensures flexibility, enabling innovative road pricing schemes aimed at improving mobility and reducing the pollution effects.”
Using a GPS-based system, every driver on all Dutch roads will pay only for the kilometres driven as measured by an electronic box (On-board unit (OBU)) equipped with a satellite navigation receiver. The price paid per kilometre depends on when and where the vehicle is driven. Environmentally-friendly vehicles are expected to receive a discount rate.
"EGNOS provides increased accuracy and system integrity, supplying information on the reliability of GNSS signal. This means that EGNOS can help reducing incorrect charging and increase trust in the system" says Diani.
GNSS enables many new mobility initiatives
Over the longer term, satellite-based systems are likely to become the enablers of mobility optimisation initiatives, including large scale road pricing schemes says Diani.
Operators and public authorities have in fact the flexibility to charge by time, distance or the number of times the vehicle crosses the boundary of the toll area, realising innovative mobility management. Moreover, the schemes can be adapted easily as new roads are added or changes are made to the boundaries of toll areas.
These benefits clearly explain why the EU’s Interoperability Directive of 2004 recommends the combined use of satellite and mobile communication technologies as part of new electronic toll collection systems.
Interoperable road tolling across the EU
Existing national and local electronic road toll systems are generally incompatible. For example, a truck travelling from Portugal to Denmark today would need five or more on-board units, each covered by a particular contract for a different road operator.
The Europe Commission wants to offer businesses and individuals the possibility – through a single service contract ¬– of travelling and paying their toll charges in all EU Member States using an OBU.
The interoperability of road charging solutions is an objective of the European Commission. The Interoperability Directive creates the European Electronic Tolling Service (EETS), which should start offering by 2012 one contract and a single OBU for its customers for all the tolled networks in Europe.
After EETS is in place for all road vehicles above 3.5 tonnes or which are allowed to carry more than nine passengers, it will start offering solutions for all other vehicles within five years.
With the new EETS decision, satellite navigation can become the preferred technology to realise a unique Europe-wide tolling service, says Diani.
Germany provides an example
In the EU, Germany is considered a pioneer of GNSS-based electronic tolling, as it already introduced the system for truck tolling in 2005.
So far, the system has resulted in increased revenues from road charging, a 15% decrease in the number of trucks travelling empty on the toll roads, and a move by businesses to invest in greener vehicles. More than 650,000 trucks from 20 countries now use the system.
Slovakia is developing a satellite-based charging system for large vehicles on 2,400 km of roads. France is also considering satellite technology for an ambitious new road charging scheme.
The EGNOS Open Service was officially launched by the Commission on 1 October this year. The free signal augments GPS by improving accuracy to within two metres. Further precision will be achieved when Europe will launch Galileo, a global navigation satellite system.
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