In May 2021, the National Highways Authority of India issued guidelines to strictly ensure that no more than ten seconds are spent as service time per vehicle, even during peak hours at every toll plaza in India. Considering the vehicular density of the roads, it becomes crucial to save time while the occupants are on commute.
In order to enhance the travel experience and to resolve the issues like traffic jams or slow moving traffic due to delayed processes at toll plazas, the Government is geared up to implement GPS based toll systems. However, there are challenges and the existing system integrators have many queries. MoRTH and NHAI have entrusted IHMCL, Indian Highway Management Company Limited to find an alternative technological solution for tolling. Shruti Gupta, Senior Project Manager, Egis-India Consulting Engineers Pvt Ltd talks about the technology and the processes involved in the research and development done by far in this regard.
Egis India has been assisting IHMCL for augmentation in the tolling technology. We are going ahead with recommending Global Positioning System based Global Navigation Satellite System as the technology which we would like to introduce as one of the most efficient practices. We are in conversation with the esteemed members of the apex committee over the past couple of months and after having done our back calculations along with officials from ISRO, institutions like IIT Kharagpur, IIT Delhi and various other paradigms which are working in parallel with IHMCL, MoRTH and NHAI we have been able to draw the conclusions which we will share in this composition.
It will take some time for the augmentation of the current Electronic Toll Collection system to reach the global navigation satellite system and how we will integrate it. Let us understand the basics of what the system architecture is all about. We have our issuer banks, acquirer banks and there are multiple ways in which the transactions are getting absorbed as permitted by the Indian Banking System — core banking, wallet, prepaid account and credit cards etc. Let us deep dive into the detailed mechanism of Fastag technology; for a particular stretch of National Highway covered currently we do not have the leverage of free flow, adding on further we also are unable to use the mechanisms like Pay-as-you-drive. Therefore, what happens is, there is loss of effective tollable income and also as a user we have to overpay for an incomplete stretch at times.
Several technologies are currently operational worldwide, structurally they are parallel to GNSS. For free flow, we have DSRC (Dedicated Short-Range Communications, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) technologies but pay as you drive is not the aspect that these technologies cater. There arises a need to upgrade the elements of existing infrastructure which is stationary and mobile. In order to incorporate these provisions in technologies like RFID or ANPR which can cost up to 12.5 times higher than what the GNSS infrastructure typically requires.
When we talk about the GNSS, it is free flow and pay as you drive and for a certain stretch of road only ETC technology provides you with pay as per the distance covered by the vehicle or pay as per your usage. So GNSS will be increasing the collected toll income approximately 10.42%, this is with respect to the statistics received from IHMCL in 2021 as per the road network across the nation and usage according to the vehicular density at that point of time.
Taking an overview of how the GNSS ETC system integration will work; there will be a central system infrastructure composed of satellites like NavIC by ISRO which is relatively free if you are working within the domain and premises of Indian boundaries. GSM GPRS which will work in close proximity with NavIC and along with that it gives us a precision of 1 to 3 seconds for geo-positioning our vehicles with respect to the coordinates of their movement. Similarly, from the vehicle and infrastructure end, we will have the on-board unit installed in large commercial vehicles, we will have a vehicle owner who will have options for plug and play, for embedded OBU or maybe for an electronic mobile app based OBU.
The app will be integrated with smart phones without the need for any other gadget for this kind of integration. From roadside infrastructure we will have stationary enforcement which is in the form of gantries and mobile enforcement which will be the specific system as per the dispersal of the vehicle owner. All of the data from the stationary as well as the mobile enforcement will be reported to the national GNSS tolling system. Encryption and decryption of data ensures the privacy of end user and there will be no leakage of data. The vehicle will be tagged and registered in the system and only NHAI higher authority will have access of the details or e-Vahan division will have access of the details. The key people holding responsibility for this will be NHAI, backend payment infrastructure, road concessionaires, collection agency and the value added digital services.
Roadside infrastructure validation and enforcement would require stationary enforcement equipment like Gantry based automatic control points and mobile system like vehicle based automatic control units. Systems required amongst the gantries are cameras, sensors, time and coordinate tools, computers, telecommunication and electricity connections. With respect to infrastructure GNSS comes with very less expenditure on a comparative analysis as compared to any other parallel technology like RFID or ANPR. We are eagerly looking forward to the absorption of the recommendations in Standards and Specifications by the authorities for a more promising future. We are working in the space of integrated consulting services for a holistic growth and development.