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GPS-based toll system to replace FASTag

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FASTags, GPS

Mains level : Read the attached story

The government plans to start a GPS-based toll system in place of FASTag to ensure seamless payment and vehicle movement on national highways.

Why in news?

  • The move would end the role of toll plazas across the country.

How will a GPS-based tolling system work?

  • Vehicles will be fitted with an electronic device that can track their movement.
  • Highways will be geo-fenced, creating virtual boundaries. The system will use GPS or radio frequency identification technologies.
  • The software will recognize when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area, and toll will be charged based on the distance travelled at the highway’s exit point.
  • As the system is based on sensors, there will be no need to stop at toll plazas.
  • Vehicles and users must be registered with the GPS toll system, linked to bank accounts that will be used to transfer toll payments.

What are FASTags?

  • 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.
  • RFID uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.
  • 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.

Issues with FASTags

  • Since the card is affixed to the windscreen, it can be easily misplaced, damaged or stolen.
  • The existing FASTag system, though faster than cash payments, still requires vehicles to stop at toll booths to enable reading of tags.
  • Also, the vehicle must wait till the gate is opened.
  • It has been observed that sometimes the toll fee is deducted twice from user account. Mostly, this happens due to a technical glitch.
  • Some card readers take longer time to read and register. Hence the purpose of saving time is itself defied.
  • Still, the wait time at toll booths is much more than the 30 seconds that was promised earlier.
  • Also, it has not helped reduce the number of toll booths.

Hence the benefits of using FASTag far outweigh the challenges.

Is FASTags a total failure?

  • Usage has increased since FASTag was made mandatory in 2021 after its launch in 2015.
  • Penetration has grown from nearly 16% in FY18 to 96.3% in FY22.
  • Total toll collection in FY18 was ₹21,948 crore, including ₹3,532 crore collected through FASTags.
  • In FY22, toll collection through FASTags increased sharply to ₹33,274 crore out of total toll collection of ₹34,535 crore.

How will GPS benefit highway users?

  • GPS tolling uses satellite-based navigation and requires no halting.
  • Also, vehicles can be charged only for their actual travel on a highway stretch.
  • Currently, toll is paid at toll booths which is fixed between two points of tolling and a user does not get any concession even if he/she exits before completing the full run between two toll plazas.
  • The new system should reduce the toll amount charged for travel on highways.

What is the progress so far on GPS tolling?

  • The Union road ministry has amended the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008, allowing for the collection of toll based on distance travelled on national highways.
  • This will facilitate the introduction of GPS tolling.
  • First trials may be done on the under-construction Mumbai-Delhi expressway which will be geo-fenced.
  • Also the cost of GPS devices needs to be considered at very beginning.

Way forward

  • The system needs a proper legislative framework, and a full launch is still years away. The government intends to introduce it in phases.
  • The road ministry is expected to amend the Motor Vehicles Act and create rules to facilitate GPS tolling as well as to penalize offenders.
  • Moreover, GPS will come with its own set of complications on calculating differential tolls.
  • Regulations and framework for these need to be developed first.

 

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