Your car might be watched 24 hours in future

Cheryl Tay
Fit to Post Autos

The government is now testing new satellite-tracking technology. (Yahoo! file photo)

In the future, you just might be charged for driving to the convenience store around the corner to get milk and bread.

The government is now testing new satellite-tracking technology that could develop into the next-generation electronic road pricing (ERP) system.

The System Evaluation Test (SET) began in May and "is a technological trial to help identify a technological solution most suited for Singapore", Channel NewsAsia reported.

So don't be alarmed if you come across four black cantilevers at Woodlands Avenue 12, the site where the SET testing is being carried out. You will also notice a range of surveillance cameras, reflectors and sensors set on the structures hanging over the road.

Kapsch TrafficCom, MHI Engine System Asia and NCS, ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems) and IBM Singapore, and Watchdata Technologies and Beijing Watchdata System were awarded the tender last year to develop technologies within 18 months as a replacement for the ERP system. They were each allocated S$1 million for the project.

These tests are expected to be completed at the end of the year, following which the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will "assess the performance of the various solutions to determine whether an appropriate technological solution is available and can form the basis of a next generation ERP system", an LTA spokesperson was quoted by CNA as saying.

Using the Global Positioning System (GPS) to track vehicles on the roads, this satellite tracking might replace the existing ERP system and perhaps even the annual road tax that all motorists pay regardless of usage. Another aspect of vehicle ownership that can be looked into is the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums, which can be reduced if drivers are charged on their usage.

I think if this satellite tracking replaces the ERP, drivers might be made to pay distance-based charges (mileage travelled), time-based charges (duration of car usage, weekdays or weekends, peak or non-peak hours), location-based charges, or even a mixture of all three, using GPS-based electronic road pricing in place of the current area-based charges. There will be no need for ERP gantries, requiring just GPS coordinates, software and cameras for monitoring.

For example, a possible structure might be one where the system starts charging once you start your engine and move off, regardless of whether you are heading around the corner for your Sunday coffee, picking your kid up from school or going to work on Monday morning.

Those who seldom use their vehicles will benefit from this, otherwise the possible execution of satellite tracking ERP may make the usage of vehicles more expensive in Singapore.

There are no firm plans on how this vehicle satellite tracking system will be used as testing is still in progress to evaluate its viability to be used for road pricing. However, there are various possibilities on how it can be implemented for the next generation ERP system.

With this ability to track vehicles, this potential system basically can serve as a 24-hour surveillance camera for all motorists in Singapore. It can detect speeding vehicles, red-light beaters, illegal parking, hit-and-run drivers, and also assist in finding stolen cars or other types of crimes.

Fret not, this project is still in its early stages and there is no set date or time to introduce the next-generation ERP system yet.

Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.