The country will see a change in the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system to one that will have islandwide coverage and the ability to charge according to distance travelled, which will be rolled out from 2020.
Land Transport Authority chief executive Chew Men Leong announced on Sunday (26 February) that local company NCS and Japan’s MHI Engine System will be building the system.
He added that the new system will replace the current gantry-based ERP system in place since 1998.
The Chief said that there will be an 18-month transition period between the old and new systems, adding that by that time motorists will change their current in-vehicle unit for a smartphone- size on-board unit.
However, LTA noted that there will be no change to the current charging regime during the transition period as LTA will only look into the option of distant-charging when the technology is in place. If the distant-charging option took place, then drivers with high mileage, such as taxi drivers, deliverymen and bus operators, could face significantly higher ERP charges.
There will be several changes in the system. One of them is that drivers will get alerted of priced roads in advance before turn-offs to alternative routes, as well as inform them of charges and provide real-time traffic information.
LTA said that with the new technology, drivers will be able to better decide when to drive, which route to take or leave the car at home and take public transport instead.
The Government will foot the bill for the first on-board unit.
Mr Chew stressed that as there was no timeline for the implementation of distance-charging, other functions of the new system will be available from day one.
He said that drivers will see real-time traffic information, coupon-less streetside parking and automatic payment for offpeak car owners who drive during peak periods from day one.
The system requires islandwide coverage, which means that satellite navigation technology is needed. Signal beacons will be in place in places where coverage may be weak, such as in tunnels or under viaducts.
According to Mr Chew, the winning bid was superior to the one submitted by ST Electronics, the other bidder. It will cost $556 million, less than half the $1.2 billion that ST Electronics had sought.
Back in November 2014, Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Gerald Giam asked the then-Minister of Transport, Lui Tuck Yew in Parliament, on what safeguards would be in place to ensure that the privacy of the drivers is not compromised and that the data is not misused.
Mr Giam noted that this system would not be subject to the Personal Data Protection Act and asked if it be made clear to the public what information would be collected and what it will be used for.
Mr Lui replied the NCMP’s question by saying that the Government assures the commuters is that it will anonymise and aggregate the data.
He said, “If we look at the situation today and with all the mobile devices and how they are being used and how that can actually already be used to track the location of any particular individual, I would think that the situation with the GNSS-based system should not be of any concern.”