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Will automated driving change how tolls are collected?

Although human drivers will continue to operate the majority of the vehicles on our roads for some time to come, the automobile industry is moving forward at top speed toward the goal of fully automated driving. Because it is unclear when level 4 and level 5 AVs will be widely deployed, the potential effects of fully automated cars on the toll sector have not yet been considered. I just participated in a debate on this subject, but I still want to share some first thoughts about how automated driving may alter how tolls will be collected in the future.

Operators of AV fleets will collaborate with toll service providers: Automated driving will boost the relevance of third-party toll service providers, assuming that the majority of level 4 and level 5 AVs will probably not be owned by individuals but instead will be a member of a fleet. The majority of AV fleet operators will contract out toll management to toll service companies. The owners of AV fleets will look for a toll service provider that offers an affordable, interoperable toll service that covers all toll domains in which they operate their fleet.

Trip data from AVs used to calculate tolls: Automated driving may accelerate the trend toward tolling systems that compute tolls using trip data from 3rd party telematic devices. Countries like Hungary, Bulgaria, or Poland already use data from EETS boxes, fleet tracking devices, or even smartphone apps to determine the amount of toll a vehicle must pay. All connected AVs will be controlled by centralised fleet management platforms, which will have extremely accurate trip data, so, this data could be used to calculate tolls, reducing the need for toll agencies to deploy dedicated tolling technologies (such as on-board units/tags, field equipment, etc.).

Reduced need for toll compliance checking: In tolling schemes where 3rd-party devices are being used to provide trip data for toll calculation, compliance checking will initially become more important for toll agencies due to the “open” nature of such schemes. However, once we see a high percentage of AVs in the overall traffic, the need for toll enforcement will likely decrease. AV fleet operators will have an interest in complying with toll regulations and will not try to avoid paying tolls like some individual drivers may do today.

Influence AV route choice: Finally, toll tariffs provide a possibility for traffic managers to attach a price tag to certain roads influencing the selection of routes. While some human drivers may ignore toll costs when deciding which route to take going from A to B, trip costs will have a high priority in the routing algorithms of AV’s control units. AV fleet operators will design their routing algorithms with a significant emphasis on economical KPIs like service level, trip costs etc.

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