Irish software firm Mapflow has been awarded a six-figure contract with the European Space Agency to assess the feasibility of a new ‘distance-based’ electronic tolling system for Europe’s roads.
The proposed system would use satellite-based tracking linked to a black box in every vehicle, with the owner of the vehicle remotely billed according to specific road use, time of the day and distance travelled. Such a standardised Europe-wide system would facilitate more flexible tolling, where road users are charged according to use.
The European Union is searching for an efficient means to fund the remaining €350bn required to complete the pan-European road infrastructure. Road pricing is at the heart of the EU’s plans. “Distance travelled is already used when calculating charges for rail, sea and air transport; it is inevitable that road users will pay along a similar pay-for-use structure, particularly at peak times,” commented Richard Bryce, CEO of Mapflow, whose customers include O2, Vodafone, BT, Transco and the AA.
In April the European Commission published a proposal that all EU vehicles will pay road tolls electronically. In the first phase, electronic tolling for heavy goods vehicles would be introduced next year. The second phase would see electronic tolling implemented for all vehicles by 2010.
The insurance industry is also assessing the same satellite technology to permit drivers to be charged for motor insurance on a ‘pay for use’ basis. Norwich Union in the UK recently announced details of its plans for a pilot scheme where premiums will be based on distance travelled. The initial pilot is expected to cover five thousand vehicles. Other companies such as AXA already provide schemes that use satellite technology to monitor driver behaviour and manage associated premium levels.
“It is inevitable that the vehicles of tomorrow will be capturing and communicating information about each journey undertaken for the purpose of tolling,” said Bryce. “Germany is already adopting a satellite-based approach, scheduled to roll out later this year. This early commercial vehicle initiative may yet become a benchmark for the rest of Europe.”
By Brian Skelly