Singapore plans trial run of new road pricing system soon

13:35, May 25, 2011      

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Singapore will conduct trial run of a new generation of electronic road pricing (ERP) system that may use satellite tracking instead of the huge gantries standing at roads leading to the downtown areas, local media reported on Wednesday.

For bidders have been selected for the trial run, including the Kapsch TrafficCom from Austria, ST Electronics and IBM Singapore, MHI Engine System Asia and NCS from Japan, as well as Watchdata Technologies and Beijing Watchdata System from China. The Land Transport Authority said each will receive 1 million Singapore dollars (0.8 million U.S. dollars) in seed funding "to design, develop and demonstrate technological solutions."

The trial run will start next month and last 18 months, including on-the-road testing to prove the robustness of the new system. The new system will likely charge drivers not only according to where they go, but also for the distances they clock, the Straits Times reported.

Experts say the main challenge of the new system would be its patchy accuracy as densely built-up areas can create what are known as "urban canyons," where satellite signals bounce off tall buildings and distort the readings.

In an early trial done in 2007, the Land Transport Authority found that the accuracy of satellite tracking in open areas such as highways to be above 90 percent, but it dropped to about 30 percent in the city center.

But the technology has since improved and signal beacons can be erected on curbs or buildings to overcome the pitfalls of satellite tracking in the city center.

Singapore is one of the first countries to introduce an electronic road pricing system to reduce congestion in the city center. Currently 71 huge gantries of blue and white stand astride major roads and expressways in the system introduced in 1998. Each of the gantries were built at the cost of 1 million to 1.5 million Singapore dollars (0.8 million to 1.2 million U.S. dollars).

Source: Xinhua
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