European GNSS Enables Flexible, Scalable Road Charging

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Published: 
14 March 2014

The Eleventh Annual Road User Charging Conference took place in Brussels on 5th and 6th March 2014. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) are a key enabling technology for a scalable and cost-effective approach to fair and flexible road charging and the European GNSS Agency (GSA) organized a dedicated session to showcase recent developments in this key market.

When it comes to GNSS-based tolling, Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia and, most recently, Hungary lead the way, each having GNSS-enabled charging schemes for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs). In the near future, France and Russia are aiming to introduce schemes. Belgium has plans for a system startingAlberto Fernández Wyttenbach (left) discusses RUC with Zoltan Varga of Hungary’s National Toll Payment services at the EGNOS stand. in 2016 and the Czech Republic is considering GNSS for its second phase of road charging. The German road charging system has been in operation since 2005 for trucks heavier than 12 tonnes and generates €4.5 billion revenue per year.

A leading company in this sector is Siemens, which has a range of onboard units (OBUs), including the Sitraffic Sensus unit that is already Galileo enabled and also able to access satellite-based augmentation systems such as EGNOS. The unit communicates with its fixed central servers via GSM to transmit distance data and receive updates on tariffs and road network extensions as required.

“The German experience has established the success of the combined GNSS/GSM approach and proven that satellite technology is reliable and flexible,” claimed Siemens’ Norbert Schindler.

Opportunities and Challenges

GSA’s Alberto Fernández Wyttenbach provided an about Galileo and EGNOS. Both systems provide enhanced signal reliability and availability and are free to use, with Galileo set to provide early services by end of this year or beginning of 2015. the full constellation is scheduled to be in place between 2018 and 2020.

Emphasising the main advantages of GNSS-based road user charging, Wyttenbach stressed its great flexibility, easy extension of coverage and low transaction costs. “GNSS is becoming the technology of choice for free-flow road tolling,” he said. “It can give complete coverage, great availability and has no direct installation costs, and Galileo can further improve accuracy, availability and trustworthiness.”

“EGNSS does not represent a technology, but a suitable infrastructure for road user charging  in Europe,” he concluded.

Factor of Seven

The flexibility and scalability of a GNSS-based charging system was underlined by Miroslav Bobošik of the SkyToll organisation. This road user charging scheme for HGVs in the Slovak Republic had recently been extended seven-fold from coverage of 2 477 kilometres, mainly motorways and major roads, to encompass 17 762 kilometres and bring all motorways and class 1, 2 and 3 roads into the system.

To achieve this with a terrestrial system would have required the construction of some 4 000 gantries, but the huge expansion was built using software in three months. “This is only possible via GNSS,” stated Bobošik.Speakers at the GSA conference session (from left to right) Miroslav Bobošik, Norbert Schindler, moderator Sven Maerivoet, and Alberto Fernández Wyttenbach

The two-way communications possible with a GNSS-enabled OBU also meant that tariff and network models could be updated and amended quickly and easily. Charge collection efficiency was 99%, regardless of the type of road. “There is a clear trend towards GNSS-enabled systems due to their flexibility, efficiency and fast implementation,” said Bobošik.

EGNOS Included

The Hungarian government has also recently deployed a distance-based e-toll system for HGVs that covers around 20% of the national road network. The specified OBU for HU-GO uses GNSS tracking and will also accept data from other GNSS units that have already been installed in vehicles, for example, to enable fleet management or for hazard tracking purposes. “The flexibility of a GNSS system was underlined by the rapid evolution of the HU-GO OBU based on a GNSS tracker,” said Zoltan Varga of Hungary’s National Toll Payment services.

Hungary has also indicated a willingness to cooperate with GSA with respect to the inclusion of EGNOS in the HU-GO technical specification to increase accuracy and reliability.

Likewise, in Belgium, Bart Dewandeleer of the Flemish government described plans for a road user charging system for HGVs over 3.5 tonnes that could be launched across the country in 2016.

Complex interregional negotiations has been required to complete the necessary legal and fiscal basis but the scheme was now almost at ‘the point of no return’. Dewandeleer stated that all the legal bases would be in place before the Belgian elections this year – but the new governments would need to implement the system.

A pilot project for lighter vehicles has started in Belgium’s GEN-zone, which effectively includes the provinces of Flemish and Wallonian Brabant and Brussels.  The pilot will test the practicalities of a GNSS-enabled km-based charging system and involves 1 000 selected participants in a three month trial. The first results will be available in April with a final report in mid-2014, which will form the basis of future policy. If the political will is there, a passenger car scheme could also be on schedule for implementation in Belgium by 2016.

“We believe in the future of variable road charging in Europe,” concluded Dewandeleer.

And GNSS – in particular European GNSS – will have a key enabling role in this sector.

“There is a clear trend towards GNSS-enabled systems due to their flexibility, efficiency and fast implementation.”


Media note: This feature can be republished without charge provided the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is acknowledged as the source at the top or the bottom of the story. You must request permission before you use any of the photographs on the site. If you republish, we would be grateful if you could link back to the GSA website (http://www.gsa.europa.eu). 


More information: 

The European GNSS Agency
EGNOS Portal
11th Road User Charging Conference
Hungarian RUC
Republic of Slovakia RUC
Belgian RUC

Updated: Jan 30, 2018