Satellite tolling study for Dublin

20 Sep 2005

The effectiveness of satellite technology in calculating road usage in Dublin City is to be the subject of a new feasibility study announced today by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO).

The research, which will be undertaken by geographic information systems firm Mapflow with its co-sponsor, the DTO, is being funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).

This study is to be carried out under the Armas (Active Road Management Assisted by Satellite) project, which aims to develop a virtual road toll system. Armas uses in-vehicle black boxes and global satellite positioning data to help determine the exact route a driver has taken, enabling a fair and accurate toll to be calculated after each journey. The system calculates a car’s position in real-time and sends data on location and journey length to a control centre, allowing drivers to be charged for the section of roadway on which they travelled.

As well as rendering toll booths obsolete, the system can also be used to give motorist early warnings about hazards or major traffic delays ahead. In addition, traffic managers can use the technology to manage congestion with variable toll charges based on time of day, levels of congestion and location of roadworks. This means that consumers travelling off-peak could be rewarded with reduced charges.

Dublin-based Mapflow has worked with the ESA on the application of space technology to road tolling since 2003 when it carried out a pan-European investigation into the feasibility of using satellite technology for virtual tolling. “Mapflow has developed significant experience and knowledge about the application of satellite technology to various aspects of road tolling through participation in ESA projects such as Armas. Improving this technology and using it, especially in built-up areas, has taken substantial investment in technology by Mapflow. We are excited to see them extend these technology trials to Dublin,” remarked Rafael Lucas Rodriguez, head of navigation applications and the user services office at ESA.

Mapflow has completed trials on satellite technology in a number of major cities, including London, where it evaluated GPS accuracy in the Greater London Area for Traffic for London, an organisation that manages the London congestion charge. “The built environment in London creates significant challenges for monitoring road usage by satellite. We believe the low-rise nature of buildings in Dublin will make it significantly easier to track cars in Dublin and that this technology will eventually lead to the elimination of toll booths in Ireland,” explained Harvey Appelbe, Mapflow CTO.

John Henry, CEO of the DTO, welcomed the feasibility study as a potential first step towards radically overhauling the way the road tolls are collected in Ireland. “The use of satellite technology to track road usage makes it possible for us to greatly improve the way the road tolling system currently operates. The satellite system is perhaps the most innovative way of collecting tolls without impeding motorists. I’m sure that the benefits of not having to filter through toll plazas and of being able to automatically pay roads tolls would be widely recognised by motorists were the available technology to be used to that end.”

By Brian Skelly