Satellite-based toll unit for private vehicles

Two European firms are collaborating to develop an in-vehicle road toll unit based on satellite positioning and mobile phone technology. Its use for road-charging scheme would save authorities the cost of installing expensive infrastructure such as toll stations.

NXP and Siemens Mobility have agreed a technical collaboration to develop NXP's ATOP (Automotive Telematics On Board Unit Platform) into a 'single-chip on-board unit' system based on GPS and GSM. Once it is ready for the market, it is intended for use in private vehicles. Drivers will be able to install the on-board unit in just a few minutes. The system is secure and facilitates easy toll collection. Commercial use is planned for the first half of 2010.

Flexible road pricing solutions need to be suitable for all drivers and able to calculate and charge customers automatically for their journeys. In addition, they must not impair the flow of traffic and should help to ensure that the number of vehicles on the roads is kept within reasonable limits. Siemens Mobility and NXP aim to create a viable, practical solution for this market.

NXP will supply a chip and basic software which combines all the functions for toll collection such as GPS (Global Positioning System), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and NFC (Near Field Communication) modules. Interfaces for flexible telematics applications such as additional traffic information will be provided on a single-chip platform, which is fully automotive-grade. Siemens is to develop the on-board unit (OBU) and integrate NXP's chip and software.

The on-board unit will receive GPS satellite signals and use standard GSM radio technology to send data to the central system for toll calculation. The system also includes a non-removable adhesive vignette fitted with an RFID chip, which is attached to the windscreen. It communicates with the on-board unit in order to ensure that the correct OBU is actually present in the vehicle. The RFID vignette can also be used for other applications such as parking space management.

The price of a car journey can be determined in a number of ways. The distance travelled and the time of day chosen for the trip are the main factors, but the type of vehicle and fuel consumption or CO2 emissions are also possible references.

The current fee for car journeys can be displayed by the OBU at all times. Payments can be collected by monthly invoicing or by use of a prepaid card, in which case no details of the driver or the route are disclosed.

Image: Toll plaza

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