The evolution of SVP. Free access

    In the last article, we examined the problems on the implementation of ITS in Russia, which, in general, are common to all high-tech areas based on imported technologies. Today we’ll talk about the evolution of toll systems.

    This class of systems is interesting primarily because it develops as if by itself and independently of other ITS systems. State structures are the customer of almost all ITS systems, but only SVPs collect real money. I think it is unnecessary to explain that toll road operators are extremely interested in the maximum efficiency of their systems.

    In a previous articleI talked about the architecture of the "classic" SVP, with pictures and diagrams. The "classic" SVP is equipped with barriers and pay booths; it is an impressive building made of metal and concrete, with utility rooms including a control room, a cash room, rooms and changing rooms for staff, etc.

    No operator wants to maintain all this capital economy. Because at the heart of the most common relations between the state and the toll road operator is the principle of “accessibility payment”. That is, the state annually pays the agreed amount to the operator who performs a certain range of services with the agreed quality. In fact, it looks like an IT SLA. Thus, the more money the operator spends on providing KPIs, the less he (and his investors) will be left with bread and caviar.

    The operator will keep booths for paying for the fare in cash on the road until cash remains the main means of paying for the fare. As I already wrote, an alternative to paying for travel with cash is electronic proximity cards (like in the subway) or transponders - special devices that provide communication with SVP equipment using the DSRC wireless protocol based on the IEEE 802.11p standard. The transponder allows you to pass the payment point without stopping, the fare is charged directly from the user's electronic account.

    Avtodor transponder for driving on the M-4 Don highway

    SVP free drive

    Using transponders allows you to replace the classic payment points with a lightweight framework, as is done, for example, in Portugal. Such systems operate in the mode of free flow of transport (multi-lane free flow) and do not impose any restrictions on it.

    A typical MLFF system consists of a combination of the following elements:
    • Video cameras for receiving vehicle images and license plate recognition;
    • DSRC antennas for information exchange with a transponder (in the USA, the DSRC function is partially performed by RFID tags);
    • Scanning device for determining the dimensions and classification of the vehicle.

    Typical composition of MLFF equipment The

    choice of equipment is determined by the applicable charging rules (tariffs, classes, payment procedure), as well as the requirements for the operator (percentage of collection). All MLFF components are not cheap, industrial, and operators use every opportunity to do with fewer elements.

    State requirements are very sophisticated. In the same Portugal, the law requires proving photographs of the front and rear parts of the car at the same time to prove the passage under the frame. The Portuguese state is no longer satisfied with photographs taken at intervals of half a second, so operators have to build three frames at once at the measurement point. On the middle there are antennas for communication with transponders and laser scanning sensors that measure the length of the vehicle, and on the other two cameras are located to obtain images of the vehicle front and rear, including a license plate.

    Typical MLFF installation in Portugal

    In Sweden, Gothenburg decided to do without transponders in general, requiring motorists to keep license plates clean and using numbers as the only identifiers. It is worth noting that at the same time they have rather mild conditions for collecting fees, since they use tolls more as a measure of regulating transit flow, rather than as a means of profit.

    Support MLFF in Gothenburg

    Regardless of the type of equipment on the support, the operation algorithm of such a system is extremely simple:
    1. The most reliable information about a passing vehicle that meets the requirements of local law is collected. The collected information is processed in the so-called travel transaction;
    2. In a central system, a transaction is checked automatically or manually;
    3. The tariff is calculated, billing or debiting of funds occurs in the case of using the prepaid payment system.

    Scheme of MLFF zones (blue - detection and photographing, red - DSRC communication zone, green - classification)

    Despite the simplicity of the system, there are many subtleties and nuances. The main one is violators. No need to think that Europe is full of law-abiding lemmings, ready to pay meekly. The proportion of violators according to statistics is from 5 to 10 percent. Receptions are different. The simplest is the rebuilding at the time of passage of the frame (option - travel on the side of the road). When there is a transponder, and it stores the vehicle license plate, identification is not a problem, since cameras view overlapping bands. But in a number of countries the number is not stored in the transponder, and linking the transponder identifier with the image of a specific vehicle within the transaction can be a problem. Manufacturers of software for MLFF class systems compete among themselves in the ability to work with "tricky" cases, since there is nothing more to compete with.

    Dirty numbers, shaded numbers, all sorts of nets, etc., which makes it difficult to recognize in the infrared range, is also a problem. The presence of a transponder helps to alleviate the requirements for the percentage of recognition, but the transaction log will not work, you need a normally readable image, which may not appear.

    In the case of using transponders, the main disadvantage is the need for mass use by road users. The transponder costs a penny, it works 5-7 years from its own battery, but it needs to be handed out to everyone or sold, forcing drivers to attach it to the windshield ...

    KAPSCH fragmented transponder (photo from here )

    As usual, in many countries, the "distribution" of transponders were primarily drivers of commercial vehicles - trucks and buses. If ordinary motorists just need to buy paper vignette to travel along the Austrian autobahns, truck drivers must travel with transponders.

    Also, transponders are actively used by users of “ordinary” toll highways, for which it is both time saving and money saving. In Russia, transponders are offered by all toll road operators, both private and managed by Avtodor Group of Companies.

    So, in Europe and the United States, MLFF class systems have become an evolutionary continuation of the classic stop-and-go systems with barriers and dedicated lanes. But what about Russia, in which there was no "evolution" of SVPs, just like the SVPs themselves? Should we accelerate through all the stages of development of the SVP or, perhaps, take a unique opportunity and skip some stages of development?

    State of the art

    SVPs in the world developed relatively slowly (30 years is an awfully long time for IT), but this was not due to the laziness of the engineers and not to the conservative nature of the customer. The fact is that SVP consumers are motorists, very few of whom are fans of IT stuff. In order for technologies to take root, so that the user realizes their benefits personally for themselves, time is needed. There is little to rely on popular geeks, as in the promotion of mobile electronics. In matters of SVP, we are moving at the speed of a critical mass of users, we can start talking about the same MLFF when 60% of people already use transponders voluntarily, and 80% voluntary use can be made, putting the remaining 20% ​​of marginals before the fact.

    In Russia, the percentage of fans of new technologies who are willing to try various innovations is extremely high. According to the estimates of specialized agencies of such people, about 30% of all motorists (remember at least the popular popularity of video recorders, navigators and other small equipment). If this 30% clearly explains the advantages of new technologies and does not deceive their expectations, we will already have at the start a significant number of users who can become the core for the critical mass, making the introduction of innovations not only “cool”, but also cost-effective.

    Currently, all charging points operating in Russia are built to support cash collection. Nobody wants to wait for the moment when the percentage of users of electronic means of payment will grow by itself to take the next step. Because it means lagging behind Western technology again with a ten-year lag.

    We have a unique opportunity to immediately enter the “technological frontier” SVP, especially since this “advanced technology” has been familiar to many of our compatriots for five years now.

    I am talking about charging technologies based on satellite transport monitoring. But more on that in the next article.

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