Tolling With RFID
What Is Tolling?
In the United States, toll roads are used in 35 states, which, when combined, span over 5,000 miles. Toll roads are public or private roadways in that charge a toll, or fee, to use the road. The money generated is then used toward the cost of maintaining the road itself.
Only new roads can be sent to the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads for approval by state governments, local governments, or private entities that own the land rights. Once a toll road is proposed, a decision must be made about which type(s) of toll system should be used.
What are the Four Most Common Types of Tolling Systems?
Manned Tollbooth Systems
As the name suggests, these tollbooths have personnel inside to collect payments. Once the funds are collected, a button is manually pressed to open the toll gate for the driver to pass through.
Unmanned Self-Service Tollbooth Collection Systems
Unmanned toll booths are self-service systems that feature a display screen that calculates the toll amount for each driver. The driver pays via an automated machine that collects cash or card payments. Once the machine receives the funds, it automatically lifts the toll gate for the driver to pass through.
Unmanned Automated Toll Booth Collection Systems
Automated unmanned toll booths typically have no toll gate and are usually incorporated with one or both of the systems above. These toll systems look more like lanes and are usually marked specifically for drivers with a toll account linked to a toll pass. Drivers with toll passes are able to drive through the marked lane where an RFID reader can read the RFID tag located in or on the vehicle.
For verification, all vehicles that drive through the lane are picked up by a motion detector, triggering a camera to take a photo of the vehicle’s license plate. The photo of the car and license plate is timestamped, and then software visually decodes the license plate number and sends it to a database. Because all of the collected information is timestamped, the system can be used to match up RFID tag reads and license plate photos. If the license plate number matches an RFID tag read and the account is in good standing, no further action is usually required. Photos and license plate numbers without corresponding RFID reads can be sent to a collections database for billing.
Unmanned Wireless Automated Toll Collection Systems
Unmanned wireless tolling systems typically have no booths, but are simple, overhead truss systems. These systems are usually made up of a combination of technologies, like visual systems, ZigBee wireless systems, and RFID systems. For all vehicles, motion detectors trigger cameras to take photos of each vehicle that passes through and timestamp the image.
If a vehicle has an RFID toll pass tag, lanes with RFID hardware will be visually identifiable for drivers to pass through so that their account information is detected. These images and RFID reads are then sent to a specified system or network via the Zigbee wireless system. The system can then analyze the photos, decode the plate numbers, and that information can then be used to associate RFID tag reads with license plates to match up account data. If no RFID tag read is received, the license plate data can be sent to a collections database for billing as well.(1)
All these systems can work standalone or be combined together to accurately collect data while attempting to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible.
Real World RFID Toll Pass Examples
- NC Quick Pass
- National Pass
- Nexpress Toll
- Freedom Pass
- Good to Go
- Palmetto Pass
- Pike Pass
Why Is RFID Used for Tolling?
RFID technology is used to read account data associated with specific toll passes enabling drivers to pay weekly, monthly, or annually for toll road usage instead of paying per use. RFID technology is ideal for Tolling for a few reasons:
- Easily meets required read range of 10-15 feet
- Vehicle movement is not a problem
- Fast read rates, with the ability to read up to 750 tags per second
- Low tag cost
- Ideal for record and data association
- Secure encryption and communication
Which Type of RFID is Used in Tolling Applications?
RFID tolling applications typically use either UHF Passive or Active RFID because of the required read range.
What Equipment Makes Up An RFID Tolling System?
An RFID Tolling System is made up of RFID tags on vehicles and overhead mounted RFID equipment at toll lanes. The toll passes contain RFID tags or inlays that can be passive, active, or battery-assisted passive. The RFID equipment usually consists of at least one reader and two antennas connected by antenna cables and powered by AC power or Power over Ethernet. The reader is connected to a host computer via Ethernet, Serial, or Wi-Fi and the read data is usually sent to database to be analyzed and stored.
Where Are RFID Tolling Tags Placed?
RFID tags for tolling applications are usually adhered to a vehicle’s windshield, either at the top or bottom, and are not removed unless the tag is no longer usable. RFID tags for tolling are typically attached to a windshield via adhesive on the front of back of the tag for and cannot be moved after placement without destroying the tag.
Are RFID Tags for Tolling Secure?
Tag Data Security
Common Question: Can people read my RFID toll pass information and copy it to use themselves?
No. Within RFID tolling systems, RFID tag data is encrypted, and only an RFID reader with the encryption key can decode and view that data. In addition to data encryption, most RFID tags also have a feature called mutual authentication, which means that both the RFID tag and the RFID reader send authentication messages at the same time so that each component in the data exchange is authenticated.
Common Question: Can anyone get access to my information by reading my RFID toll pass?
No. An RFID tag’s data is secure because most RFID systems use a string of numbers on the tag instead of a user’s specific data. Furthermore, the encoded numbers on RFID tags do not mean anything, unless the person has access to the secure database that holds the associated information. For example, a license plate number alone means nothing, unless a person has access to a state or federal database that associates that license plate number with the person who purchased it.
Physical Tag Security
Common Question: Can someone steal my RFID toll pass and use it?
No. Most RFID tags used for toll passes are manufactured so that, once adhered onto a surface, they cannot be removed without destroying the tag itself. These RFID tags are called “Destructible Tags” and are made specially so that, if removed, either the connection between the chip and antenna is broken, or the antenna itself is broken.