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Appendix C | Technology as a key determinant of viability

The (then) UK Transport Minister, Stephen Ladyman, recognised that the adoption of

the ANPR technology for London reflected the desire to ensure a deliverable within

one mayoral term. While the system is relatively crude and expensive to operate, it

was generally recognised as robust and reliable.

Technology trials commenced in August 2003, aimed at providing greater flexibility

for paying the charge and/or for reducing operating costs. At the completion of Stage

2 of the trials it was concluded that ‘DSRC is completely practical for a congestion

charging scheme’ (TfL 2006, p. 70).

In October 2007 it was announced that IBM will take over the operation of the London

Congestion Charge from November 2009. Consideration is being given to tag and

beacon technology.

Electronic vehicle identification (EVI)

Electronic vehicle identification (EVI) requires each vehicle to have a unique identifier,

whether a device such as a tag or electronic number plates, or microdots applied to

the vehicle at time of manufacture.

A major advantage of EVI over ANPR is the significant reduction in the degree of

manual intervention. In addition, since EVI is a multipurpose technology, the cost

can be spread across other uses and does not need to be fully recovered from the

congestion charging scheme. Vehicle tracking using EVI serves multiple purposes:

data collection, vehicle security, law enforcement, traffic and fleet management.

With other applications for the underlying technology, prospects also improve for

large-scale production and lower unit costs.

Figure C1 provides a schematic view of some the current uses for the EVI in road

transport.

The dominant EVI technologies are DSRC and, within that, radio frequency

identification (RFID).

Radio frequency identification (RFID)

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are tiny microchips containing a unique

serial number with scope for including other information. RFID technology works

like a bar code but does not require contact or line of sight for communication and

can (generally) be read through the human body, clothing and non-metallic materials.

Most electronic toll collection systems use some form of RFID tags.

Tags are distinguished mainly by their read range and whether they are ‘passive’ (readonly)

or ‘active’ (can take on new information). Read range depends on a number of

factors, including presence of a battery, antenna size, radio wave frequency and the

power output of the reader.

RFID tags are increasingly being installed in motor vehicles at the time of manufacture

for purposes unrelated to road-user charges. One study estimated that around 40 per

cent of new cars produced in North America contain RFID tags for security purposes,

allowing automatic disabling of the vehicle unless its RFID reader detects the correct

tag in the driver’s ignition key (Wireless Insight Asia 2006).

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