The European Commission has adopted the technical specifications needed to launch interoperable electronic tolling services across the EU, paving the way for EGNOS to be used for road user charging.
The single set of standards, which clears the way for the future European Electronic Toll Service (EETS), will allow road users to pay toll charges anywhere in the EU using the same on-board unit through a single service contract with one service provider.
Current 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.
Once electronic toll systems are compatible and service providers are able to operate in all Member States, congestion on Europe’s roads would be reduced, the Commission said in adopting the specifications on 6 October 2009.
With the new EETS requirements now established, satellite navigation becomes a more attractive technology for accurately recording travel time and distance for toll charging.
The use of satellite navigation for road user charging systems has proven to be a very efficient means of tolling road users, according to research by the European GNSS Supervisory Authority (GSA). For example, Germany’s use of road tolling technology based on satellite navigation has demonstrated that such a system ensures a fair and seamless levy of fees and is easily expanded.
Automated toll systems introduced during the 1990s use wireless-equipped overhead gantries to communicate with vehicles passing beneath. These dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) systems are likely to remain important for some years, but they are expensive to set up due to the cost of the required infrastructure and are hard to change once they are in place.
Over the longer term, satellite-based systems are likely to win out because of their flexibility. They can be adapted easily as new roads are added or changes are made to the boundaries of toll areas. They also have the flexibility to charge by time, distance or the number of times the vehicle crosses the boundary of the toll area.
These benefits are the main reasons why the EU’s Interoperability Directive of 2004 recommends the combined use of satellite and mobile communication technologies.
More precise measurements
EGNOS, which augments GPS by making its navigation signal more precise and reliable, will provide a means for toll operators and service providers to more accurately track vehicles. Since EGNOS is freely available and can be picked up by most existing satellite navigation receivers, new toll systems are likely to take advantage of EGNOS from the start.
The Commission decision adopted on 6 October lays down the rights and obligations of toll chargers, service providers, and users. EETS will be available within three years for all road vehicles above 3.5 tonnes or which are allowed to carry more than nine passengers, including the driver. It will be available for all other vehicles within five years.
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 officially launches Galileo, a global navigation satellite system.
Germany has used satellite-based charging for trucks since 2005. 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. Both France and the Netherlands are considering satellite technology for ambitious new road charging schemes. France is expected to make a decision on the matter at the beginning of 2010.
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