From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR)
Mains level : Toll collection models in India
In light of congestion at toll plazas, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry is now moving ahead with a plan to replace toll plazas with cameras that could read number plates, also known as Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR) cameras.
- The plan is to remove toll plazas on national highways and instead rely on ANPR cameras, which will read vehicle number plates and automatically deduct toll from the linked bank accounts of vehicle owners.
- The model is simple: Entry and exit of toll roads will have cameras capable of reading number plates, and toll will be deducted based on these cameras.
Can all number plates be read by the cameras?
- Not all number plates in India can be read, and only those that have come after 2019 will be registered by the cameras.
- The government, in 2019, had come up with a rule mandating passenger vehicles to have company-fitted number plates, and only these number plates can be read by cameras.
- The government plans to come up with a scheme to replace older number plates.
- A pilot of this scheme is underway and legal amendments to facilitate this transition are also being moved to penalise vehicle owners who skip toll plazas and do not pay.
Current model for toll collection: FASTags
- Currently, about 97 per cent of the total toll collection of nearly Rs 40,000 crore happens though FASTags — the remaining 3 per cent pay higher than normal toll rates for not using FASTags.
- With FASTags, it takes about 47 seconds per vehicle to cross a toll plaza.
- There’s a marked throughput enhancement – more than 260 vehicles can be processed per hour via electronic toll collection lane as compared to 112 vehicles per hour via manual toll collection lane, according to government data.
- While FASTags have eased traffic at toll plazas across the country, congestion is still reported as there are toll gates that need to be crossed after authentication.
Why such move?
- Congestion at toll plazas on national highways continues to impact commuters despite 97 per cent of tolling happening through FASTags.
- Apart from ANPR helping to ease congestion, the government is also looking at GPS technology as one of the options for toll collection.
Are there issues with ANPR?
- The success of ANPR cameras will depend on creating an ecosystem that is in sync with the requirements of the camera.
- The biggest problem being faced during the trials is when things are written on number plates, beyond the nine digit registration number, such as ‘Govt of India/Delhi’ etc.
- Another problem that ANPR cameras face is in reading number plates on trucks, as most of the time they are hidden or soiled etc.
- A pilot on a key expressway has found that about 10 per cent of vehicles with such number plates are being missed by the ANPR cameras.
Back2Basics: What is ‘FASTag’?
- As per Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, since 1st December 2017, the FASTag had been made mandatory for all registered new four-wheelers and is being supplied by the Vehicle Manufacturer or their dealers.
- It has been mandated that the renewal of fitness certificate will be done only after the fitment of FASTag.
- For National Permit Vehicles, the fitment of FASTag was mandated since 1st October 2019.
- FASTags are stickers that are affixed to the windscreen of vehicles and use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
- The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods.
- As a car crosses a toll plaza, the amount is automatically deducted, and a notification is sent to the registered mobile phone number.
How does it work?
- The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it.
- It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
- RFID technology is similar to that used in transport access-control systems, like Metro smart card.
- If the tag is linked to a prepaid account like a wallet or a debit/credit card, then owners need to recharge/top up the tag.
- If it is linked to a savings account, then money will get deducted automatically after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold.
- Once a vehicle crosses the toll, the owner will get an SMS alert on the deduction. In that, it is like a prepaid e-wallet.