Roads in India
India boasts the third-largest road network in the world. Road transportation comprises over 65 per cent of India’s freight traffic and 85 per cent of passenger traffic.
In modern India, our government gives the highest priority to the development of roads. The National Highways Development Project (NHDP) was a government programme to implement projects to elevate and expand major highways in the country. The Golden Quadrilateral project connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata was an initiative of NHDP. But in 2018, it merged with the Bharatmala project, which aims to develop new highways and increase freight traffic.
Toll collection system
Toll road systems are common in most countries. This aims to construct better roads and bridges. In this system, the government provides a tender to any private company for the building and maintenance of bridges, roads and tunnels. Thereby, it allows them the provision of collecting tolls to meet their expenses. This way, companies can earn their profit for the whole road project. These are toll roads. In short, “We must pay an extra for the extraordinary roads.”
Toll collections have improved dramatically. According to government officials, by 2021, the total toll collection on national highways will transcend Rs 34,000 crore.
Different kinds of toll collection systems around the world
There are different kinds of toll collection systems around the world. Let’s have a look at them.
Manned toll collection
A company staff operate these toll booths. They enter the credentials of the vehicle and then open the toll gate after the completion of payment.
Self-service toll collection
This is an unmanned self-service toll collection system. Here the toll amount is shown on the screen. This amount varies according to the type of vehicle. It can also be a flat rate for all the vehicles. The driver can pay as cash or card and automatically collect the pass. This system is common in malls but least present on Indian roads.
Automated toll collection
This system can either be automatic or semi-automatic. In some cases, they are fully automated with no toll gates. In other cases, toll gates are manually operated. The vehicle owners must have an account associated with the toll pass to use this system. Here, an RFID tag is used for toll collection. Toll-paying drivers can drive in the specified lane where the RFID reader will scan this tag.
Traditional tolling methods
Men were employed to operate both the toll booth and toll gate. Management of a single booth requires at least four people. Two people for closing and opening while one each for collecting funds and data-keeping.
In this system, cash was the only mode of payment. A receipt was issued after the payment. This receipt will contain the date, time, vehicle details and so on. Therefore, this receipt is mandatory when the car checks out.
This method was time-consuming as it involves manual entry of data and allows payment only as cash. As a result, the operator will also have to produce change every time.
This system also resulted in traffic congestion. Vehicles honking from behind were also a regular sight. Fuel and time loss for commuters was a bigger disadvantage. While vehicles escaping toll booths were also common.
RFID for electronic toll collection system
Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) is a wireless system that collects the user fee from fellow commuters who make use of tolled highways, bridges, and tunnels. It is a more efficient alternative to toll booths, where motorists must stop and pay the toll manually using cash or a card.
Electronic toll collection systems employ an outfitted windshield-mounted RFID tag. When a car passes a roadside toll scanner, it sends a radio signal to the transponder. It then transmits an identifying number that enters the car’s road use. Simultaneously, an electronic payment system charges the user fee.
What is RFID?
Radio Frequency Identification or RFID is a wireless method storing digital data. The RFID tag and the RFID reader are two major units of this system. Tags store info of a specific object, say, the details of registration of a car, while the readers capture this info using radio waves or signals.
RFID tags can either be passive or active. Passive RFID tag comes without batteries. The RFID reader’s probing radio waves provide energy to passive tags. In contrast, active tags are battery-powered and hence can be read from a wider distance from the RFID scanner. Also, RFID tags consist of antennas and RFID chips. Antennas transmit and receive radio signals while the chip stores data.
RFID readers consist of antennas that emit and receive radio signals back from tags. These readers are handheld or attached to the poles of a building, such as in toll booths.
How does RFID work?
RFID scanners, like barcode technology, detect the location and identification of tagged goods. But instead of scanning laser light reflections from printed barcode labels, it collects and stores data using low-power radio waves.
This technology is getting a wider appreciation for collecting road tolls. Here the transceiver reads radio frequencies and sends them to a radio frequency interrogator (RFI).
What is FASTag?
FASTag was introduced by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in 2014. It is an excellent application of RFID for toll collection.
We can affix the FASTag card on the windshield of the vehicle and recharge it for a particular amount. When the car moves past the toll plaza, the RFID reader scans the tag. Instantly debiting the toll amount from the account linked with the vehicle owner.
Earlier, we waited in long queues to pay the tolls. Besides, each vehicle used to take about a minute to pass the toll booth. Nowadays, FASTag has reduced this time to a few seconds, which encourages cashless payment.
More than seven years after its implementation, FASTags have reduced traffic congestion in toll plazas and saved valuable time for fellow commuters. The Government of India has made FASTag mandatory from February 2021 onwards.
Benefits of RFID for toll collection system
We need a low cost, highly secure, efficient toll collection system in the long run. RFID smart tags thus came into play. RFID technology for toll collection is very effective, less time consuming and reduces pollution. This also reduces the labour requirement and time delays. Thus, the RFID technology brought a revolution to the highway toll collection system in the country.
This method is also eco-friendly and increases toll lane capacity. It can also prevent the passing of default vehicles and assures safety and comfort to passengers.
Let’s have a detailed glance at the RFID toll system:
The fully automated toll collection system
In several countries, toll systems are widely accepted. Due to the swelling number of cars on the road, a well-organized toll collection system is in massive demand. Many countries, including the USA, the UK, and Germany, have invented fully automated toll systems. UAE uses a high-frequency, ultra-modern RFID system named ‘Salik’ which neither needs manpower nor toll booths. While some countries, like India, have implemented a semi-automated RFID toll system. India’s FASTag is a valuable addition to its transportation requirements.
Ensures the unrestricted flow of vehicles
Unrestricted vehicle flow is a salient feature of the automated toll system. This is, of course, critical for a smooth movement in the long run. It helps you save a lot of time and energy. Not only passenger transport but also freight transport can highly benefit from this system.
Saves valuable time
The primitive toll collection usually had a cash system. This would consume so much time as the operating staff had to provide change to the driver. As a result, rages between the driver and the staff were quite common then. But an automated toll system saves a lot of time. Because RFID scans are faster, more vehicles can pass through at the same time. Both commuters and tolling authorities save a significant amount of time as a result of this.
Reduces fuel loss
The RFID method has helped to alleviate traffic congestion caused by motorists lining up to pay their tolls. Because of the unrestricted flow of vehicles, traffic lines are less likely to form. As a result, car owners can save fuel. This is a bigger advantage owing to the current fuel price in our country.
Lessens noise pollution
In the early days of the toll system, traffic jams were typical. Passengers had to wait for quite some time. They would become irritable as a result of this. Previously, the sight of cars lined up back to back honking was a common occurrence as a result of this impatience.
The RFID technology has provided a consistent flow of vehicles, reducing noise from honks.
Encourages digital payment
We are in the era of digital payment. The government is encouraging cashless payment. This causes less havoc and faster transactions and even reduces thefts. RFID tolls debit amounts from the account of the vehicle owner, and this is safe and convenient.
Hence, RFID smart tags are the future of a fully automated toll collection system. It is the answer to smart road transportation requirements as well.
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