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FasTrak and FASTag: RFID-based Electronic Toll Collection

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Nov 15, 2023
  • RFID
FasTrak and FASTag: RFID-based Electronic Toll Collection

The first electronic toll collection (ETC) system was set up on the Dallas North Tollway in 1989. Electronic toll collection facilities were required to allow vehicles to pass through toll booths, without having to stop to pay toll, which would result in smooth traffic flow and convenience for drivers on state highways and expressways. The electronic toll collection system uses a FasTrak account linked to each vehicle and an RFID transponder to automatically deduct tolls while vehicles pass through toll lanes smoothly. 

FasTrak is the ETC system that is being used in the United States of California across all districts and the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), CA still owns the trademark to ‘FasTrak’ name and logo.

Come 2014, India had its electronic toll collection system, which was pretty much manual before. The toll collection on national highways started in the year 2000 under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) and more than 220 toll plazas are currently operational with the number growing each year. 

The manual way of toll collection was limited by efficiency constraints. The money was collected in cash/card and receipts were generated by computers. Vehicle owners had to stop at toll plazas to do this which also resulted in congestion. To straighten this out, we now have FASTag.

Named ‘FASTag’, the ETC system in India uses RFID transponders as well, just like FasTrak. FASTag is owned by IHMCL (Indian Highway Management Company Limited) with the Ministry of Indian Road Transport and Highways as its parent. 

How RFID works with FasTrak and FASTag

FasTrak and FASTag, both use RFID transponders which can be attached to vehicle windshields, and a digital payment system linked to the vehicle owner’s account is also linked. RFID readers and antennas are installed at toll plazas, and toll lanes which can accurately capture the RFID tag details as the vehicles pass through. 

See, RFID is an advanced AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Capture) technology that uses radio frequency signals to establish communication between an RFID tag and an RFID reader (and antenna). An RFID tag is a small electronic device that consists of antenna lines and a silicon microchip. The microchip memory (User memory, EPC memory) can hold data as required in the form of EPC (Electronic Product Code). 

When a vehicle approaches a toll plaza and enters a toll lane that is FastTrak/FASTag marked, the RFID reader installed at the toll plaza sends the interrogating RF signal which is captured by the transponder (antenna). Since both, FasTrak and FASTag, use RAIN RFID tags or passive UHF RFID tags, the RF signal energy activates the tag IC which then sends the encoded data to the reader, in the form of an RF signal. This RF signal is captured by an RFID reader and decoded for the Electronic toll collection system. 

Toll payments with FasTrak and FASTag

The RFID technology being used in FasTrak and FASTag allows for an integrated system that can capture the details of vehicles passing through the toll plaza lanes. In California, USA, vehicle owners are to create their FasTrak account and register all their vehicles on their account. If any vehicle is sold or ownership is transferred to another individual, they also need to remove that vehicle from their account to prevent payment of someone else’s tolls. 

In India, people are issued a FASTag no. for each vehicle and that is linked to people’s digital wallet like Paytm or PhonePe, or their internet banking services to ensure quick toll collection/settlements. When a vehicle passes through a toll plaza, the toll amount is automatically deducted from their FasTrak/FASTag.  

The payment receipt is automatically sent to vehicle owners on their smartphones over e-mail. 

As per the latest report, the monthly average toll collection using FASTag in India (2022-23) is at INR 3842 Crore (461.7M USD) with toll collection of INR 4314 crore, INR 4554 crore, and INR 4349 crore in April, May, and June in 2023. This also means that, with over 5.5B USD average yearly toll collection, India is way ahead of the USA in toll collection which stood at 3.4B USD in 2021. 

Benefits of Electronic Toll Collection with RFID

Electronic toll collection system offers several advantages for toll collection, not just from an accurate toll collection and economics point of view but also from ease of movement and traffic perspective. Let’s see some of these benefits in detail:

ETC offers efficiency and time savings 

Electronic toll collection systems with RFID technology allow vehicles to pass through toll plazas without the need to stop, reducing congestion and saving time for drivers. The automated process eliminates the need for manual toll collection, resulting in faster and smoother traffic flow.

RFID-based electronic toll collection ensures convenience and seamless payments

With RFID-based electronic toll collection, drivers no longer need to carry cash or search for exact change. The system automatically deducts the toll amount from the linked account, providing a seamless and convenient payment experience for vehicle owners. 

Reduced Traffic Congestion with electronic toll collection

ETC eliminates the need for vehicles to stop at toll booths which results in reduced traffic congestion, especially during peak hours. Electronic toll collection systems thus improve overall traffic flow and reduce travel times.

Enhanced Safety with electronic toll collection at toll plazas

RFID-based toll collection systems also minimize the risk of accidents caused by sudden stops or lane changes at toll booths. Vehicles can maintain a steady flow, reducing the chances of rear-end collisions and improving overall road safety.

Cost Savings with ETC system

Electronic toll collection systems can help reduce operational costs for toll authorities. The automated process eliminates the need for manual toll collection booths and reduces the workforce required for toll operations.

Environmental Benefits with Electronic Toll Collection System

The smoother traffic flow facilitated by electronic toll collection systems helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions, contributing to a greener and more sustainable environment.

Improved Toll Management with electronic toll collection

Electronic toll collection systems provide toll authorities with real-time data on traffic volume, toll revenue, and vehicle movement patterns. This information can be used to optimize toll rates, and manage congestion. Accordingly, infrastructure improvements can be planned and implemented.

Electronic toll collection reduces toll fraud

RFID technology provides a secure and tamper-proof means of toll collection. The unique identification of vehicles through RFID tags helps prevent toll evasion and reduces the risk of fraudulent activities.

Interoperability

Many electronic toll collection systems using RFID technology offer interoperability, allowing drivers to use a single RFID tag (FasTrak/FASTag) for toll payment across multiple toll plazas and road networks across the state. It’s very helpful for frequent travelers. 

Integration with Digital Payment Systems

Electronic toll collection systems with RFID technology can be seamlessly integrated with digital payment platforms, enabling drivers to link their RFID accounts with mobile wallets or other digital payment methods. ETC thus allows for flexibility and convenience in managing toll payments to users. 

To summarize, electronic toll collection systems with RFID technology offer numerous benefits, including improved efficiency, convenience, cost savings, and enhanced safety. ETC has completely transformed the way tolls are collected, making travel more seamless and hassle-free for drivers and fair and accurate toll collection without fraud. 

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.


  • Created on Nov 15, 2023
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