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Prepared for Telematics Update as publicity material for an eTolling conference in June 2004 15/4/2004
Drivers are likely to be forced to pay to use all major routes in Europe within the next seven years if plans under active consideration by the European Commission come to fruition. Several states, including Austria, Germany, the UK and (outside the EU) Switzerland have either implemented wide-area tolling for heavy goods vehicles or are shortly to do so. In the UK, the government has already launched a public debate about the introduction of wide-area tolling for all vehicles some time after 2011.

The signs are all around as governments in Europe and elsewhere struggle to meet their international Treaty obligations on the emissions of harmful particulates and try to find ways of reducing the demand on national road networks. Road-user charging has become the new Holy Grail with a number of urban and inter-urban systems coming into existence over the next few years, as tools of traffic management. Next year the Swedish authorities begin an 18 month congestion charging trial in Stockholm at about the same time as the Norwegians vote on the continuance of the Trondheim scheme. The year after, in 2006, congestion charging is expected to begin in Edinburgh while cities throughout the world, including Rome, watch developments with interest.

In cities as diverse as Dublin and Santiago, DSRC tolling facilities are currently under construction with much of the revenue raised being ring-fenced for publicly funded transport-related projects. And while the European Commission continues to try and find a common standard for the microwave DSRC at 5.8 GHz to allow unimpeded passage for goods and services throughout Europe, DG (Tren) is supporting the ARMAS project in Lisbon, looking at the feasibility of using EGNOS (and later Galileo-based) signals for electronic tolling purposes.

There is no doubt that the proliferation of non-interoperable ETC systems, whether based on DSRC, ANPR or GPS/GSM protocols has become a source of serious concern to the EC and it is this concern which lies at the root of much of the research work that is now being undertaken. One recent initiative has involved a search for a consortium willing to study the existing tolling schemes in the Alpine region with a view to the development of a single OBU capable of use throughout the region. In April last year, following a failure by CEN to broker an agreement on a DSRC standard, the Commission issued a draft Directive requiring ETC tolling technology to follow the satellite-based route in preference to DSRC.

The frenetic activity spells good news for the telematics world but only for those parts of industry which are properly prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead. In the rush to meet the requirements of cities and states for tolling facilities, care needs to be exercised in understanding exactly what is involved.

Interoperability, for example, is decidedly more than getting the OBU to function across a series of otherwise unrelated tolling sites. As Wolfgang Beir, a senior manager with DaimlerChrysler, has pointed out in a paper shortly to be published, "Just (putting) all these standards into a single box (in the hope of achieving) pan-European technical interoperability is insufficient."

Genuine interoperability lies on three levels - technical, contractual and procedural. The back-office systems have to be in place to make the whole thing work. Payment systems and systems for reconciliation across jurisdictions need to have been set up while effective enforcement procedures that cross national boundaries will need to have been thought through. And at the contractual level there has to exist a relationship between the local operator and the entity responsible for the payment process, including a Memorandum of Understanding encompassing all the operators within the system, defining the overall framework for co-operation. Additionally there is need for a bilateral agreement between each of the operators dealing with commercial frameworks and risk allocations. It is a minefield for the unwary.

The E-tolling conference organised by Telematics Update Magazine for 21st June 2004 in Stuttgart, will guide you through the complicated processes involved and allow you to listen to some of the world's leading experts on ETC systems and technology. At the end of the conference you will have a clear understanding of the challenges involved and how to go about meeting those challenges.
For further information contact:
Thomas Hallauer, Tel:#44 20 7375 7199, E-mail: thomas@telematicsupdate.com
 
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