Toll agencies must act soon to prepare for in-car payment systems


I have previously written on the advancement of autonomous vehicles and their connection to mobile payment systems. When I speak to individuals and toll agencies about these pending deployments, they all say it is at least five or 10 years away, “so why worry about it now?” While it may seem like connected and autonomous (CAV) technology is way in the future, the reality is the future is now.

Jaguar and Shell recently collaborated to introduce a mobile payment system into new vehicles. Although it’s being released in the UK, they plan to roll the system out worldwide. And according to reports, these systems will be linked to Apple Pay and eventually Google Wallet, providing customers with a seamless and coordinated mobile payment system.

Although no plans for expanding the system into tolling or other applications such as parking and fast food were announced, the evolution of in-car payment systems is not that far away. Remember, this is a potential US$50bn a year industry the public is clamoring for. In the past month, I have had several other car manufacturers approach me regarding in-car payment systems and tolling. We have all seen the shift in demographics toward convenient mobile applications and away from the privacy concerns of the past. To clarify, I feel systems run by government are far more distrusted by the public than those run by private entities, where security breaches are seemingly accepted as a daily occurrence. In contrast, a breach of any government-run system is in the headlines for days.

Although complex, deployment of these interrelated systems is the easier part. The hard part is the agreements and business rules between the individual business units. This deployment will be complicated as it will eventually cross into multiple industries such as parking, tolling, fast-food and fueling services. So where do we, as a tolling industry, stand in accepting private industry involvement or even takeover of tolling’s payment systems?

IBTTA discussed this very topic in its last meeting and more sessions are scheduled this year. Some senior officials at US-based toll agencies have told me they welcome and accept this change as it could open their market, drive more traffic onto roads, and cut their costs. Another concern is how to enforce violations on a hybrid system combining commercial use with required government payments. Would license plate look-up still be allowed? Will agencies that suspend drivers’ registrations or licenses for flagrant violations be able to continue to do so? Would companies providing the systems offer some type of toll guarantee? Would these guarantees only cover the drivers that opened an account?

The reality is that these systems are coming faster than we ever thought. It used to be that a government transportation entity would either issue a grant or provide funding for a study to develop futuristic transportation technology. Today, consumers are driving it. They want speed, convenience and the mobile applications they use in their daily lives. We, as an industry, will in the immediate future need to deal with the challenges of technologies deployed by a car manufacturer, cell phone operator, or yet another innovator.

JJ Eden is director of tolling at Aeco

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