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Friday , 8 December 2023

“ETC will be easier after Number Plate standardisation”

Mahesh Dandawate, Managing Director, Samarth Softech Solutions Pvt Ltd talks about the latest in tolling system, automated parking systems and traffic studies in the country.

Which are the significant toll collection projects that you have undertaken? What is the distinctive aspect of this technology?

In 2013 we undertook biggest toll project in India developed by Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) at the Hyderabad Outer Ring road. The toll, comprising 105 lanes, is around 200kms in length and there are around 35-40 exits. The toll is being completed in phases. The phase-II is expected to be completed in six months. With the completion of this entire stretch, the project is expected to have 200 lanes in a single project.

The Hyderabad outer ring toll project is a semi-automatic system, which is basically a closed tolling system based on number of kilometers the users has covered. For instances, if the user is going to travel for just 10kms or 50kms, he/she will have to pay only for that much distance. Based on bar-code system, the vehicles entering Hyderabad outer-ring road will be issued a token at the entrance. The bar-code in the token identifies the lane from where the vehicle has entered; the user has to pay accordingly for the toll when they exit.

Besides toll automation system, which additional services do you offer for the road transportation sector?

In addition to tolling systems, we also provide Parking Systems. We have installed parking systems at Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune and Panjim airports. One of the latest technology/solution that we are offering for parking is the bar-code based system. We have also introduced an automatic kiosk for parking at the truck terminal near Koyambedu in Chennai. This system is quite prevalent in shopping complexes and malls but it is first time that the system is being introduced in a truck terminal. The zero human intervention system functions smoothly and quickly. For instance, the truck driver has to stand in front of a kiosk and press a button, when the light flashes, he will receive the ticket. This ticket will have a time stamp in the form of barcode.

There is a centralized monitoring system that collects and stores the data like the average duration of vehicle parking and other. The vehicle owner will pay based on the number of hours parked in the terminal which will be collected at the exit.

Toll collection is gradually going electronic. Automated parking systems too are being extensively used. What transformation do you observe in this sector in the near future?

Currently cash transactions in India are very slow. However, it is getting converted into electronic toll collection system based on smart card system. ANPR is another technology that is fast catching up. At present there are no unique number plates; every state has different rules and regulations. Only when number plate standarisation takes place, classification will be easier because database will be available with the RTO. These data could be sent to the NHAI and other authorities involved in toll collection. If these data is made available from the center or state government, then there is no need for automatic vehicle classification system. Because the number plates will provide all the required details like the class of vehicles, owner’s name and other relevant details from the RTO office. In the coming years, ANPR definitely is the future technology.

What type of traffic studies do you carry out? Which sectors and companies do you service in this field?

Traffic studies are the initial step of any road project, whether it is improvement of existing roads or construction of new roads. We have our own traffic classification system and have developed automatic vehicle classifiers & portable traffic counter and classifying units. Currently, we are using them for our traffic studies for traffic counting.

Traditionally, a person/individual would be sitting on a roadside counting the number of vehicles. This method has been slowly taken over by automatic counters and classifiers that are imported from China and USA. There are different types of classifiers:

1) Loop and sensor classifiers: It is based on magnetic loop whenever a vehicle crosses over that magnetic loop and pressure senses; it detects the presence of vehicle, the average length of the vehicle along with number of axles. The purpose of the study is to understand the growth of vehicle, plan & develop the roads and calculate potential toll revenue from a particular project. For instance: A particular toll collects around Rs 1lakh revenue per day, then depending on per day collection, they can access total concession period required for tolling.

2) Pneumatic pressure-based technology: In this technology, tubes are used (similar to LPG tubes). Whenever a vehicle passes through them, there are air pressure sensors which calculate the length between two axles and number of axles.

3) Videographic Traffic analysis: It is based on motion detection technology. Whenever a vehicle passes through a special camera, these cameras capture details based on the height and length of the vehicle and then gets classified. This technology is used for the toll audit of the NHAI, and we are using this technology only for temporary toll audit purpose, say, for seven days or so. At some toll plazas, there is a clause of revenue sharing between NHAI and concessionaire. If the revenue is above 10 lakhs, concessionaires have to share the profits/revenue with NHAI. To check/audit that revenue, NHAI has appointed us to carry the toll audit. This technology has been implemented at the Dhansad-Surat stretch and at Chennai-Tada. We have covered almost seven-eight toll audits.

We provide traffic study solutions to various government and semi-government organisations as well as leading road infrastructure companies for their existing as well as upcoming projects. We are also consultants for NHAI, MoRTH and PWD of Maharashtra & Haryana state. We have done most of the traffic studies using these advanced technologies like the loop & sensor along with videography. Similar studies will be conducted with Government of Tamil Nadu and with Andhra Pradesh within two-three months.

What is the scope for advanced traffic studies in the country at present?

We are using the Loop & Sensor based and Videographic Traffic Analysis systems. Currently, the technology is being procured from USA; but our research department is also developing this technology and it is expected to be launched in six months.

Right now, only a few transport owners are using ETC. However, in the end, the government has to take initiatives along with concessionaires and toll system providers/integrators and develop a system in which every tag is linked to their bank account. The system should be implemented compulsorily, otherwise it will be ineffective.

Preeti Swaminathan

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