Road-pricing trial shows incentives can change driver behaviour

The results of a road-pricing trial conducted in the Netherlands demonstrate that with the help of technology, drivers can be motivated to change their driving behaviour in ways that reduce traffic congestion and contribute to a greener environment.

The six-month trial in the city of Eindhoven was designed to provide the Dutch government with insights to address the challenge of traffic congestion. NXP Semiconductors and IBM, who ran the trial, describe the results as "overwhelmingly successful", with 70 per cent of drivers changing their behaviour to avoid rush-hour travel when presented with the right incentives.

The Netherlands will start introducing a road-use charge in 2012 for trucks and lorries and 2013 for passenger cars. The new system – Paying differently for mobility (Anders Betalen voor Mobiliteit) – is expected to be up and running nationwide by 2016.

For the Eindhoven trial, 50 IBM and NXP employees had On Board Units (OBU) fitted in their vehicles to register all trips and assign a price for each one, based on road type, time of day and the environmental characteristics of the routes driven. Using a secure web site, participants could see information about the price of their journeys and whether or not their choice of route had reduced their costs. During the second phase of the test, drivers were encouraged to travel outside rush hours or use a cheaper route between home and work, with rewards for those employees who changed their driving habits most effectively.

The On Board Unit, developed by NXP in collaboration with CPS Europe, contains the NXP ATOP chip for automotive telematics. This chip incorporates a GPS receiver to determine the vehicle's location. Using the mobile phone network, it continually feeds the car's location to an IBM system that calculates the route and cost data using an advanced back-office system. IBM drew on its worldwide experience in road user charging and smart traffic systems in developing the system.

"The test has vastly exceeded our expectations," said Maurice Geraets, senior director, NXP Semiconductors. "Together, NXP and IBM have logged more than 300,000 test kilometres as part of the trial, and the complete system has proven to be highly reliable. The technology is ready to charge car owners fairly for the use of the car based on road type, time of day and the environmental characteristics of the car, and to give effective feedback to drivers to influence their behaviour – helping them save money and make more efficient, greener driving choices on a daily basis. Further, the Eindhoven trial has demonstrated that our technology is ready for implementation in any large-scale traffic management programme."

IBM mobility executive Eric-Mark Huitema said: "We are strongly encouraged by the results of the Netherlands trial and the implications for other countries considering Road User Charging and Intelligent Traffic Systems. IBM has implemented a solution in Eindhoven based on GPS. The results prove it works. The already successful IBM implementations of road charging and congestion charging schemes in Stockholm, Brisbane, Singapore and London are now also achievable with GPS, which makes country-wide implementations possible for millions of cars."

Key findings of the trial included:
> 70 per cent of drivers improved their driving behaviour by avoiding rush-hour traffic and using highways instead of local roads;
> On average, these drivers in the trial saw an improvement of more than 16 per cent in average cost per kilometre;

> A clear system of incentives is critical to changing driving behaviour;
> Instant feedback provided via an On-Board Unit display on the price of the road chosen and total charges for the trip is essential to maximising the change in behaviour.

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