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New Entrants, New Business Rules Drive Interest in AET and Interoperability

By Patrick D. Jones, Executive Director and CEO of IBTTA

Philip Miller, P.E., Associate Vice President, Tolls Advisory Services at AECOM, and Francis O’Connor, National Director, Highway Toll Programs at Atkins N.A., are the Chief Meeting Organizers of IBTTA’s 2014 Summit on All-Electronic Tolling, Managed Lanes, and Interoperability, July 20-22, 2014 in San Diego. In this interview with Tolling Points, they trace the changes in systems and operating practices behind tolling industry technology.

PJ: What do you see as the most important program elements at this year's Summit?

FO: All-electronic tolling (AET) and managed lanes are pretty much accepted in the industry, so the conference is about lessons learned that can help other agencies that are now entering the field. In interoperability, we’ve seen a lot of movement over the last year on a national agreement and national business rules. That’s going to be critical leading up to the conference, working from the regional sections up to a uniform national specification.

PM: Part of the conference is a status update on the trial and error with AET, looking at the results so far and how implementation can move forward. We’ll also be talking about the positive impacts of these operational changes on customer service. Tolling is a high-use activity, we have a great many customers to satisfy, and agencies are working hard to provide good customer service.

PJ: Where has the industry seen the greatest advances over the last year?

PM: This year, technology hasn’t been the driving factor. The biggest advances in interoperability have really had to do with the agreements and organizational structures being developed by IBTTA and the Alliance for Toll Interoperability. The larger impact of a national requirements standard is the opportunity to draw new entrants into the toll industry, while protecting the interests of the various toll operators.

FO: There have been some important advances in video tolling, with improvements in cameras and optical character reader (OCR) technology. The better the technology, the more it helps agencies on the operational side. A good video system is obviously very important for managed lanes, as well.

PM: One of the biggest areas of interest in AET and managed lanes is the cost of doing business with video. Anything that can control those operating costs is certainly a very big thing for toll agencies. The need to automate and reduce the need for review and manual processing comes up often, not just in public discussions, but in operational planning.

PJ: What impact will smart phone apps have on tolling technology and applications over the next three to five years?

FO: Many toll agencies already use phone apps to manage traffic, gather data, and direct traffic away from road problems, so it’s just a natural progression to pay tolls by phone. Some agencies are already doing it. I don't see it replacing toll tags in the near future, but it’s another form of payment.

PM: The real impact and opportunity in phone apps is the open forum it creates for new companies to get into the toll business by selling…whatever. Whether the technology is modified to provide a payment device in the vehicle, or to automatically register a rented car, it’s an opening for new people with new ideas to come into the toll business.

PJ: What are the prospects and tie-ins for connected vehicle technology?

PM: There’s an opportunity for the toll industry to embrace connected and autonomous vehicle development. Facilities that are equipped with AET and advanced video technology require a lot of data, and that infrastructure could be suitable for connected vehicle development, proof of concept testing, prototyping, and rollout. Toll operators can provide a great operating platform to embrace connected vehicles, and perhaps make them a part of the business model.

FO: The toll industry has to have a bigger conversation about connected vehicles. But a technology that deals with safety will definitely be easy to connect into the tolling industry. It's a matter of supporting that activity and bringing the two strands together.

PJ: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

FO: Every part of this conference is about how we move the customer from Point A to Point B, in the mind of the customer. When the customer goes from New Jersey down to Florida, then takes a ride into Texas, does he or she care about our business rules as long as the system accepts the toll? When we work to standardize our systems and make them as easy as possible to navigate, we’re doing that to benefit the customer.

PM: We’re seeing more and more institutional change in project delivery, ownership, management, and operations. With broad interoperability, for example, there could be new entrants who just sell transponders and manage accounts as a service to other operators. There are new and different ways of allocating project revenue risk. There used to be just one way to cut the pie, but now we see many different contracting frameworks and non-traditional opportunities that are facilitated by AET and national interoperability. The Summit will cover a broad spectrum of options for public jurisdictions that want to go with managed lanes or develop new facilities.


Click here for information on IBTTA’s 2014 Summit on All-Electronic Tolling, Managed Lanes, and Interoperability, July 20-22, 2014 in San Diego.