Saturday 27 February 2016

ERP 2.0: LTA to roll out next-generation ERP from 2020; New ERP system roll-out delayed till 2023 due to global microchip crunch

Gantries to make way for islandwide ERP by 2020
LTA awards contract; new system can charge according to actual distance travelled
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2016

Singapore has cleared the way for its next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, which will have islandwide coverage and the ability to charge according to distance travelled.

It will be built by local company NCS and Japan's MHI Engine System, Land Transport Authority chief executive Chew Men Leong announced yesterday.

The new system will replace the current gantry-based ERP system in place since 1998. It will be rolled out from 2020.

There will be an 18-month transition period between the old and new systems, when motorists will swop their current in-vehicle unit for a sophisticated, smartphone- size on-board unit.

Among other things, this unit will be able to alert drivers of priced roads well in advance, before turn-offs to alternative routes. It will also inform them of charges and provide real-time traffic information. LTA said drivers armed with this information can better decide when to drive, which route to take or leave the car at home and take public transport instead.

The Government will foot the bill for the first on-board unit.

During the transition period, motorists can expect no change to the current charging regimen. After the transition phase, LTA will look into the option of distance-charging, as the technology is in place.

If LTA goes down that road, it could mean significantly higher ERP charges for road users with high mileages, such as taxi drivers, deliverymen and bus operators.

Mr Chew said there was no timeline for the implementation of distance-charging. But other functions of the new system will be available from day one. These include real-time traffic information, coupon-less streetside parking and automatic payment for offpeak car owners who drive during peak periods.

This means the system, which uses satellite navigation technology, has islandwide coverage. In places where coverage may be weak, such as in tunnels or under viaducts, signal beacons will be in place.

Mr Chew said the winning bid was superior to the one submitted by ST Electronics, the other bidder. At $556 million, it will cost less than half the $1.2 billion that ST Electronics had sought.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der- Horng said that when the new road-pricing system is in place, Singapore can rethink current methods of curbing car demand.

"It can help us do away with the current buffet-style certificate of entitlement (COE) system and move towards an a la carte system based on actual mileage clocked."

"Currently, our COE system actually encourages vehicle owners to drive as much as they can since the (big) payment has already been made," Professor Lee said."It is just like we tend to eat more than we should at buffets."

Good afternoon folks! We have awarded the tender to develop the next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Thursday, February 25, 2016

ERP 2.0 goes the distance with new tech
Wireless, gantry-less system tracks vehicles by satellite, alerting drivers to priced roads
The Straits Times, 26 Feb 2016

From 2020, Singapore's streetscape will look different in one respect - the blue-and-white Electronic Road Pricing gantries dotting the Central Business District and major highways will be dismantled.

The next-generation ERP system will rely on satellite navigation technology to keep track of the vehicle population. That means the entire island is covered.

In areas where satellite coverage is weak, signal beacons will be erected - possibly on existing infrastructure such as lamp posts and overhead bridges. Enforcement cameras will also be mounted on lamp posts and overhead bridges.

"There will be very light structures," said Land Transport Authority deputy chief executive Chua Chong Kheng.

In fact, that is one of the reasons the LTA is replacing the current gantry-based system. There are 70-plus gantries in use today, and erecting more may be visually intrusive.

Maintenance is also becoming a costly affair, the authority said.

The new system makes use of a smartphone-size, on-board unit that communicates with a central computer system via a dedicated 4G cellular network. It informs motorists of a priced road ahead, as well as the charges, allowing them enough time to switch routes.

Each vehicle is tracked by satellites orbiting the Earth. Payments are made either upfront using stored-value cards in the on-board unit, or through monthly deductions via Giro or credit/debit cards.

Vehicles without an on-board unit or valid payment mode will be captured by the enforcement cameras.

As it is a wireless, gantry-less system tracked by satellites, charging does not have to be confined to fixed locations, but can be dynamic. This means motorists can be charged for the distance they clock.

Mr Chua said these functions will not be rolled out immediately when the system is up in four years' time.

"There will already be a lot of new things for motorists to get used to. So we don't want to do too many things at one time," he said.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng concurred. "This system is the only one in the world. There will be systemic issues that the authority and vendor have to deal with," he said.

The new system is not just a congestion tool. It will also facilitate coupon-less street-side parking and automatic charging of off-peak car usage. It will also push out real-time traffic information to all road users through the on-board unit.

"This will help road users make travel choices in a well-informed manner," Prof Lee said.

Mr Chua added that, armed with the information, motorists might even decide not to drive to a particular location at a particular time, and use public transport instead.

The LTA said there will be an 18-month migration period from the current system to the new one.

During this period, motorists will swop their current ERP in-vehicle units for new on-board units. The cost of the first unit, plus installation, will be borne by the LTA.

As for when distance-charging will be implemented, the LTA would not say. LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong would only say "this is something we actually have to examine and consider" after the new system is in place.

Readers have raised concerns about privacy issues. Senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan explains that data is anonymised.
Posted by The Straits Times on Saturday, February 27, 2016

ERP 2.0: What it means to you
It paves the way for changes in road-use habits and tweaks in policies
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2016

As early as the 1960s, Singapore has recognised the need to regulate road usage. It introduced high vehicular taxes, which cars bore the brunt of (since, it was argued, cars made the most discretionary and non-commercial trips).

But it wasn't car ownership per se that caused congestion. It was usage. Hence, in 1975, the Government launched the Area Licensing Scheme, a paper-permit precursor to Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), which was implemented from 1998.

On Thursday, the Land Transport Authority announced it had awarded a contract to build a next-generation gantry-less ERP system. What will ERP 2.0 mean to road users, businesses and Singaporeans at large?

For starters, it is useful to recognise how different the new system is.

Because it is based on satellite navigation technology, the new ERP system has islandwide coverage. But it does not mean motorists will be charged the moment they leave the house.

It will apply only to congested roads. And as a congestion charging tool, it will be finer than the current system because it can zero in on precise spots where jams are likely to occur. The current static system forms a rough cordon around a congestion-prone area - which can be very wide and crude.

Shop and eatery owners who have complained in the past about ERP affecting their business could find cheer in ERP 2.0, which, if calibrated well, will not sterilise a whole district.

And with all other factors being equal, motorists could end up paying less than today. Instances where motorists find themselves under another gantry after a wrong turn, or having to pass two gantries within a short stretch, may be a thing of the past.

Much depends on whether the LTA flips the distance-charging switch. Distance-charging is the new system's killer app, as it allows the LTA to charge each road user for the exact amount of road space he consumes. This changes the current ballgame.

Those who are likely to bear the biggest brunt of distance-charging will be those who typically clock high mileage - such as cabbies, deliverymen and bus operators.

But as always, behaviours will change and things will evolve around new policies. It is likely that taxi-drivers will cruise less for fares, and commuters will rely more on electronic hailing via apps.

Logistics companies will alter their operating hours and routes (or even truck-pool) - which is a good thing because commercial vehicles currently take up an inordinately high amount of road capacity.

Bus operators will see their expenses go up, but ERP charges are still likely to be minute compared with manpower, depreciation and fuel expenditure.

How impactful the system will be also depends on how open policymakers are to tweaking components such as COE and road tax. When ERP was introduced, road tax rebates were granted. So the same could be done for ERP 2.0. Motorists can then decide on ways to use the savings other than blowing them on ERP charges.

ERP 2.0 also presents a golden opportunity for Singapore to overhaul its COE system, which has been blamed for perpetuating the sunk-cost syndrome and over-consumption of road capacity.

If the lifespan of the COE is tied to a predetermined mileage - say, 120,000km - instead of 10 years, people will naturally use their cars more judiciously. The ability to track the distance clocked by each vehicle makes this feasible.

Readers have raised concerns about privacy issues. As mentioned before, data collected is anonymised. The degree of anonymity can be calibrated, so that the system knows how many kilometres you clocked but not where you went and when (or with whom).

In any case, anyone who carries a mobile phone today is already "tracked".

ERP 2.0 has other benefits, like real-time dissemination of traffic info, which will help drivers plan their journeys better, or to decide whether they should even drive.

Other functions include coupon-less street-side parking and automatic charging of off-peak car usage outside the prescribed hours. This means more convenience for drivers, who no longer have to worry about over- or under-tearing parking coupons. Same for off-peak car owners.

The Government in turn can save tens of millions a year on enforcement and prosecution. With that, perhaps it will invest in the next ERP - which is not Electronic Road Pricing, but Electronic Road Protocol. To be rolled out in 2040, it will oversee a sizeable population of autonomous vehicles here by then.

A new generation of ERP system will be launched in 2020. The new charging system and design of the new On-Board Units...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Friday, February 26, 2016

* Roll-out of satellite-based ERP system delayed to 2023 by global chip shortage
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Nov 2021

The transition to the next-generation Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system is delayed yet again - this time by the global chip shortage.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Wednesday (Nov 17) that the roll-out - last planned for end-2021 - will now happen in the second half of 2023.

The authority said the chip shortage is expected to end only around end-2022 and early 2023.

The initial plan was to start replacing the current ERP in-vehicle units with new on-board units (OBUs) last year. This was eventually pushed to the end of this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As installation of OBUs – involving almost one million vehicles – would take 18 months, the new ERP system is unlikely to be switched on until at least 2025.

The new satellite-based ERP system will replace the current 23-year-old system, which LTA previously said was reaching the end of its operational life.

It will have more features than the current one.

Besides providing information on ERP charging locations and rates, the OBU will provide information such as real-time road traffic updates as well as locations of nearby school zones and Silver Zones, LTA had said.

The killer application of the new system is its ability to charge for distance travelled. LTA, however, had indicated earlier that this function would not be rolled out initially.

But Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced last year that the distance-charging function was still “several years away”.

In a joint press release with system contractors NCS and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, LTA explained that the pandemic had boosted global demand for microchips.

More people bought electronic devices to work or study from home. Lockdowns also led to the suspension of operations in major semiconductor foundries across multiple countries.

LTA said this “severely impacted the production of electronic devices across multiple sectors, from consumer electronics to industrial machines and automotive”.

LTA chief executive Ng Lang said: “We would like to seek motorists’ understanding as we work closely with our partners to resolve the production challenges brought on by Covid-19.

“Our priority is to ensure that the installation exercise proceeds smoothly. We will give ample notice to motorists and the motor vehicle industry ahead of the installation exercise.”

But motorists are in no particular hurry to switch to the new system.

Business consultant Albert Lee, 62, said: “I am relieved, since I can’t be sure that with the new system, other car-related taxes will be tweaked eventually in favour of distance-based charges.

“Logically, with distance-based pricing, other charges should be reduced. We should not be penalised for ownership, but for usage.”

Freelance motoring writer Wong Kai Yi, 32, said: “It is a good thing that the system is delayed.

“Hopefully, the time extension means the authorities can rethink the design of the new on-board unit, which looks cumbersome.”

In response, LTA said it is also studying whether information from the OBU can be transmitted and displayed on smartphones.

“We will be engaging the industry on the possible ways to implement this option,” a spokesman added.

However, The Straits Times understands that the OBU will still have to be installed somewhere in the vehicle even if the smartphone option proves to be feasible.


** Next-gen ERP on-board units to be installed from November 2023; motorists can opt out of touchscreen display
By Lee Nian Tjoe, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Oct 2023

On-board units for a satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system will be installed in vehicles in phases from Nov 1 this year, and the exercise is expected to be concluded by the end of 2025.

In all, nearly one million vehicles will be fitted with new on-board units (OBU), starting in November with about 20,000 fleet vehicles – those registered to a company or organisation with 20 or more vehicles. This group includes public buses, fleet motorcycles and taxis, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Monday.

The devices will be installed on new vehicles from the first quarter of 2024, while all other vehicles will have their existing in-vehicle units replaced in batches, based on the vehicle’s age.

In a nod to feedback from the public that the OBU is too bulky, the LTA said motorists can opt out of installing the touchscreen display and get key information via mobile apps on their smartphones instead.

The new OBU has three pieces – a processing unit located on the side of the front passenger footwell, an antenna and a touchscreen display mounted on the windscreen. Motorcycles will have a single-piece unit mounted on the handlebar.

Vehicle owners will be notified by LTA when it is their turn to install the OBU, with instructions on how to book an appointment.

The OBU will be free if installed within the two-month period stated in the notification, said LTA, adding that it will announce more details about the installation for individual vehicles early next year.

The next-generation ERP system will replace the current 25-year-old cordon-based system, which LTA said is reaching the end of its operational lifespan.

Installation works were slated to start in 2020, but got postponed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was pushed back again to the second half of 2023 due to a global semiconductor shortage.

The LTA spokesperson said the switchover to the satellite-based ERP system will only be announced later, towards the end of the OBU installation exercise.

While the new system can support distance-based charging, LTA said it has “no immediate plans” to start charging motorists based on the distances they clock.

There will be no change to how motorists are currently charged during the transition period, LTA said, without elaborating on how long this would be.

ERP gantries will be gradually removed after the installation period, and LTA is looking into visual markers or signs to clearly indicate ERP charging locations.

The new OBU is compatible with the current ERP systems and carparks. Most of the current payment options for ERP will continue to apply with the OBU. Motorists who use stored value options, like the standard ez-link card or Nets Flashpay and Nets Motoring Card, will have to insert the card into the processing unit.

Backend payment options – EZ-Link Motoring Service and Nets Virtual CashCard – where charges are billed directly to a credit or debit card can also be used.

The LTA said it has been testing the installation and use of the OBUs on a fleet of 500 vehicles since August. They include some vehicles used by Certis Cisco.

Mobile teams will be deployed to install the OBUs at the fleet vehicle owners’ premises. LTA’s spokesperson said this approach “allows workshops to refine and slowly ramp up their processes before the start of mass installation in 2024”.

Currently, it takes around three hours to fit the OBU in a car, and motorcycles will take half as long.

As a safety precaution, touchscreen functionalities like adjusting the settings or viewing the transaction history are disabled when a vehicle is travelling at speeds above 15kmh.

LTA said the OBU touchscreen display will provide motorists with information such as ERP locations and charges, their card balance, traffic updates and the locations of silver zones, school zones, speed cameras and bus lanes.

After all vehicles are equipped with the new OBU, there will be additional features such as payment of roadside parking and real-time traffic alerts to inform motorists of road closures, accidents or heavy traffic.

“Motorists are strongly encouraged to install all three OBU components to access the full range of features, such as paying for roadside parking,” said the LTA.

To cater to those who want to use their smartphones to access ERP information, the LTA said it has released a software development kit to allow developers to create mobile apps that integrate and display key ERP data, such as charging and traffic information.

There are strict security safeguards, such as ensuring that apps can receive only ERP information from the OBU but not read other data or make any changes to the data, LTA said.

On why the new ERP system cannot be completely replaced with a smartphone-based payment system, LTA said the OBU has been designed with more robust security measures, and was tested extensively to ensure that it could handle real-time charging transactions and data securely.

The OBU also eliminates other operational issues with a smartphone-based system such as ensuring that the mobile app is working and that the phone has enough power and is connected to the cellular network during the drive, LTA added.

Motorists like Mr Y. Y. Ko are glad to have the option of not having the touchscreen display installed. However, the 46-year-old, who works in the tech industry, asked: “Why not integrate the information into the car’s existing screens like over Apple CarPlay or Android Auto?”

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