Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Road pricing or GPS based toll charging in India and world

Toll booth for representation purpose only
Toll booth for representation purpose only (timesnownews.com)

Major Contents in the Post: (Jump to the Section)

  1. GNSS, Global Navigation Satellite System, what is it?
  2. Comparison of GNSS across the world
  3. How GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging function?
  4. Use of ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) in GNSS based toll charging
  5. Benefits or Advantages of using GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging
  6. Challenges faced in using GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging
  7. Status and updates of GNSS Road pricing or GNSS based toll charging in India
  8. Status and updates of GNSS Road pricing or GNSS based toll charging in World
Road photo for representation purpose only
Road photo for representation purpose only

What is GNSS, Global Navigation Satellite System?

A satellite navigation (Satnav) system allows an electronic receiver or device to determine its location to high precision through longitude, latitude and altitude. This location is used to provide position, navigation or for tracking. Collectively theses services are called positioning, navigation and timing (PNT). Now these services can be used on a regional level or global level basis, covering from small to large parts of earth.

A satellite navigation system with global coverage, providing signals from space that transmit positioning and timing data to GNSS receivers, is called as ‘Global Navigation Satellite System’. The global coverage is generally achieved by constellation of satellites usually 20-30 MEO (medium earth orbit) satellites spread between many orbital planes.

Comparison of GNSS across the world:

GNSS NameGPSGLONASSBeiDouGalileoNavICQZSS
CountryUSARussiaChinaEUIndiaJapan
No. of Satellites3224302484
CoverageGlobalGlobalGlobalGlobalRegionalRegional
Precision0.3m – 5m2m – 4m 0.1m – 3.6m0.01m – 1m 0.1m – 1m 0.1m – 1m
Comparison of GNSS across the world

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) based Road pricing or Toll charging?

GNSS road pricing or GNSS toll charging means charging for using any road or highway using GNSS sensors fitted inside the vehicles. Through this technique, the distance based road pricing is possible unlike flat rate pricing used presently. There is an ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) or ‘In-vehicle Unit’ (IU) fitted in the vehicle for this charging system, which interacts with Satellites in space and process the trip data into the bill amount. Important point to note here is that the GNSS is not used to toll road. Instead GNSS is used to toll the vehicles irrespective of the road types.

It is now uptto the country to decide which GNSS it wants to select for toll charging. Like most of the country use ‘GPS’ of USA for other purposes like road navigation. European countries mostly use ‘Galileo’ for navigation and toll charging purposes. Russian use ‘GLONASS’, while Chinese use ‘BeiDou’ for navigation, toll charging etc. We may use even more than one GNSS to get more reliable and accurate system.

How GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging works?

The ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) or ‘In-vehicle Unit’ (IU) fitted in the vehicle records position and time with GNSS. Then after the distance covered, the OBU converts these distance and time into the ‘trip data’. Now, this trip data is compared with the already published toll charges or road charges table by operators, and calculates the actual road trip charges, called ‘Charge data record (CDR)’. Now, this CDR can be billed one-time or periodically and may be paid through the linked bank, digital wallet etc.

GNSS road charging has 3 components – Users (Vehicle owners), ETS (Electronic toll service) Providers and Toll Chargers.

Role of ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) in GNSS based toll charging:

‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) is the heart of the GNSS based toll charging system. ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) has to be installed in the vehicle by owner or it may come pre-fitted in the vehicle. The charging by OBU can be done by central data centre, called ‘thin-client’ system or by OBU itself called ‘thick-client’ or smart-OBU system.

In ‘thin-client’ system, OBU continuously sends location data through mobile communication to central data centre, where correct charges are calculated and the corresponding invoices are sent to the users. In ‘ thick-client’ or smart-OBU system, the OBU itself processes the data as per location and calculates the bill amount. For that, it needs to download up to date pricing data from central data centre.

For Example: ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) provided by Toll4Europe in Europe:

Toll4Europe OBU sample and features
Toll4Europe OBU sample and features

‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) vs ‘Mobile tolling’ by smartphone:

At present ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) has monopoly due to robustness and accuracy of toll charging, but many smartphones may charge toll collection or mobile tolling, which is a threat to ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU) in future. Smartphone has all the components like GPS, Bluetooth, mobile data connection and payment apps making it the perfect portable ‘On-board Unit’ (OBU). But since presently smartphones are not precise and reliable like GNSS, so OBU will continue to remain for some time.

Example of GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging:

Suppose one vehicle goes from position / location A to position / location B, covering a distance of 100 Km. Out of 100 Km, the vehicle runs 25 Km on Road X, 50 Km on Road Y, and rest 25 Km on Road Z. Now, if assume, according to the Road pricing table maintained by operator, only Road Y is chargeable at the rate of Rs.3 per Km, the vehicle’ OBU will record the whole trip, but the charging server will charge only for Road Y.

Benefits of using GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging:

The benefits or advantages of using GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging in comparison to the existing toll collection system are many like:

  1. Distance-based Charging – GNSS Road pricing or Toll charging is distance-based pro-rata charging means you pay as much as you use. If you are going for half of the highway, then pay only about half of the toll charges, not full and flat toll charge like in existing toll collection system.
  2. Flexibility of GNSS to charge according to the time, distance, place, vehicle type, vehicle emission level etc.
  3. Extensibility of adding or removing any road section to charging. Only needs to update the charging database.
  4. Savings on infrastructure costs – Since, there is no need to collect charges in advance, so no need of any infrastructure like toll booths or or microwave-based toll gantries, manpower to run these toll booths etc., which will save the money on infrastructure up to 80%.
  5. Congestion-free road – There will be no queues, jam or traffic due to toll collection activity, as there is no toll booths needed to collect the road charges.
  6. Speed Tracking – GNSS can be used for speed checking, if the vehicle crosses the threshold limit, the fine can be deducted from linked bank account or digital walled or to be billed in invoice.
  7. Parking charges – GNSS based road pricing solution may be used for collecting parking charges, so this will help in lowering the administrative costs.
  8. Buying insurance – GNSS based road pricing solution may be used for buying insurance renewals of the vehicles.

Challenges or obstacles of GNSS based Road pricing or Toll charging:

  1. Continuity and Availability of service – The Service should be available when in need and must be in continuous without fail, otherwise backup scheme needs to plan.
  2. Fair and Transparent Charging – The charging should be verifiable by other means.
  3. Accuracy – The average error should be less with the GNSS based toll charging.
  4. User’s Acceptance – Users should be comfortable with all the components of GNSS based road pricing.
  5. Privacy of user – Since, the data of vehicle’s position is sent continuously in thin-client system, the user’s privacy may be compromised.
  6. Mobile data – Either to send positional data to data centre continuously or downloading up-to-date charging data continuously needs data availability and higher consumption. So many vehicles in an area may overload the telecom infrastructure resulting in the degraded quality of GNSS services.

GNSS Road pricing or GPS-based toll charging status in India:

It’s a long road ahead for India, as it has just started the consultation process in April 2021 on the GNSS based road pricing, but nevertheless, it’s a good start from Government of India. More importantly, India has “NavIC” (Navigation with Indian Constellation), its own Regional Navigation Satellite System. NavIC covers India and 1500 Km around it.

How many countries are using GNSS based toll charging?

These countries of Europe are using GNSS based toll charging – Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Slovakia, Bulgaria and many others. Russia is using GNSS based toll charging since 1st November 2015, the world’s largest GNSS toll collection at that time.

The highlights of Russia’s GNSS toll collection system are:

  1. Russia is allowing GNSS toll collection only for heavy goods vehicle (HGV), vehicles weighing over 12 tonnes.
  2. The OBU (on-board unit) supports both GPS (USA)and Glonass (Russia).
  3. Vehicle owners have to purchase and install OBU.
  4. ‘Pre-paid ticket’ was an alternative of OBU for some period, where you could buy prepaid toll ticket.
  5. Toll charges was set for €0.02, for first 3 months.
  6. 481 fixed gantries (a bridge-like overhead structure with a platform supporting equipment such as a crane, signals or cameras) and 100 mobile units will take care of enforcement of GNSS based toll collection system. Gantry for GNSS based toll charging

Inputs and sourced data used in this article:

  1. researchgate.net
  2. tandfonline.com

Disclaimer: Kindly check official websites for any clarification or confusion, the views are personal.

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