Toll Insight spoke with Justin Hamilton, Director, Location Based Charging at Kapsch.
1. Tell us about Kapsch TrafficCom’s traditional, project-based business model.
The Kapsch business is over 130 years old and has been an industry leader in electronic toll-collection solutions since the early 2000s. For much of this time, we have focused on delivering large nationwide projects in numerous European countries as well as turnkey solutions for tolling agencies across North, Central, and South America and Asia.
Traditionally, we respond to tenders and RFPs issued by these organizations. However, because these projects are large, complex, and take a long time to complete, it’s not at all unusual for there to be a high number of unique requests and requirements in a tolling tender. In many cases, it is even the norm. Therefore, while it is always possible to standardize and re-use certain hardware, the software, in particular, often contains a lot of bespoke elements. As a result, it is often necessary to approach each scheme with a project-driven mindset, which will ultimately deliver project-specific, potentially more costly solutions. Kapsch TrafficCom is far from unique in this respect. Understanding that there will likely always be some degree of customization, we are nonetheless constantly exploring ways in which we can standardize or productize and deliver more cost-effective solutions in a shorter time.
2. What is your role at Kapsch TrafficCom?
I am what we call a ‘Segment Lead’ for our location-based charging business with responsibility for the strategy, direction, and architecture of our solutions, which include GNSS-based tolling, road user charging, city-based road pricing and tolling as a service component. Customer and market engagement is crucial to my role to ensure that we are now and will continue to deliver the kinds of innovation and solutions our partners’ need.
3. What are some examples of product-based solutions you’ve deployed?
Late last year we deployed an instance of our GNSS-based road user charging solution as part of a proof of concept in Norway. Building on our experience of delivering nationwide GNSS-based tolling in Bulgaria we were able to demonstrate a flexible and low-cost response to the question of how to charge individual drivers fairly, securely and proportionally for each kilometre traveled. More recently we have signed an agreement with Denmark’s largest toll service provider Brobizz to deliver our tolling as a service components solution, which consists of various products including our GNSS On-Board Unit (OBU) and associated services.
4. How do various national toll chargers set up their GNSS tolling organizational structures?
Different national and regional toll chargers decide to split the value chain in different ways. In many cases, a toll charger may decide to procure an end-to-end solution from a single provider or consortium, which will include everything from the OBU and back-office infrastructure to customer service and account management. Others choose to split the value chain along the lines of toll charger services and end-user services. The former will typically include the enforcement infrastructure and, increasingly, centralized data processing services, while the latter focuses on the OBU (which could be from a third party) and account management.
The growth of the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) market and associated providers has accelerated the trend towards a value chain split. EETS providers fulfil the European Union’s mantra of ‘one device, one contract’ for all the users’ tolling needs by delivering a single interoperable OBU which can be used across all tolling domains. Our recently signed agreement in Denmark is an example of how Kapsch TrafficCom is supporting this approach.
5. Do you anticipate that GNSS tolling will become prevalent for personal vehicles in Europe?
GNSS has already become the default technology for heavy goods vehicle (HGV) tolling in Europe. In fact, by 2025 11 countries in Europe will have a GNSS-based tolling system in place for trucks. While most European countries already also have some form of light vehicle tolling in place, GNSS technology has not yet been adopted in the same way, but this will change. The technology is proven to deliver comparable KPIs at a lower cost than traditional DSRC- or RFID-based solutions. More and more, toll chargers are also opting to allow the use of existing GNSS-capable devices, such as smartphones, telematics devices, and even the vehicle itself, which will remove some of the barriers to light vehicles. If you no longer need a dedicated device, then the solution becomes much more accessible and user-friendly. It is also even more cost-effective for the toll charger.
Of course, any use of GNSS location data from personal vehicles must be compliant with each of the relevant (and extremely comprehensive) European regulations, as our solution is. Individuals must also consent to the use of location data for tolling purposes, which is why we believe enabling the use of existing devices and existing service providers is a good approach as users have already provided that consent and are already sharing the required data.
Looking further ahead, as more and more cars sold are electric it is inevitable that some form or road user charging will eventually replace existing fuel taxes and a secure and user-friendly GNSS-based system is best placed to deliver this.