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Tolling Points

Electronic Tolling is on Track for High growth. Is Your System Ready?

Guest blog by Ricardo Almeida, Accenture Tolling Center of Excellence Lead

Around the world, transportation agencies are focused on advancing old infrastructure to accommodate new uses, such as autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, and charging stations. IBTTA recently reported on the $2.6 trillion infrastructure funding gap in the U.S.; and to bridge this gap, tolling and other forms of road usage charges will have to be at the center of the country’s plan.

Electronic tolling, in particular, is an important factor in modernizing transportation infrastructure. Its contactless nature supports the needs of a diverse population and provides convenience and personal safety. Electronic tolling is growing along two dimensions:

  1. The customer base is growing. It is estimated that 874 million global electronic tolling subscriptions will be active by 2030, collecting $583 billion every year by 2030. [1]
  2. Transaction volume is growing. Multiple stakeholders are responding to consumer demand and are now positioned to receive electronic payment for value added services rendered. New players include: retail providers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Big Tech, and mobile wallet providers, increasing the value for services offered.

With growth comes new opportunities––and risks. Which is why we believe the future of electronic tolling is built on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies. COTS is low risk and has easy configurability to extend for future operational needs without extensive rework. 

What is COTS?

COTS is licensed software that has core maintenance and support agreements backed by the vendor. It has several key benefits for toll operators:

  • Own and control the software license – COTS is not tied to a specific systems integrator (SI) or maintenance provider, and COTS should have multiple SIs to choose from.
  • Adapt for the future – Proprietary solutions are built only to support today’s requirements, whereas COTS suppliers have roadmaps for evolving the system’s features and adapting to future technologies.
  • Take all requirements into account – COTS is designed for high-volume transaction processes. Enterprise COTS platforms account for the entire tolling lifecycle: customer service, billing, payment processing, reporting, and more.
  • Scale for volume and services – COTS software, and specifically enterprise software platforms, have the ability to quickly scale to handle additional volumes and move into new industries to manage new revenue streams and services and account for changes in technology and new customer expectations.

In 2016, Accenture worked with the Illinois Tollway to build its electronic tolling platform using COTS technologies. [2] The flexible nature of COTS was instrumental in helping the agency launch its Tolling 2020 Program, which included a new invoice process and multiple relief measures associated with violations and the impacts of COVID-19 on the Tollway customers. [3]

COTS is interoperable with other systems

The drive for seamless interoperability will change the face of national and international tolling, allowing a customer to travel across states, paying tolls in real-time with a single account. The benefits and expectations of interoperability is extended to include the ability to use the same account to pay electronically for other services within the mobility ecosystem. Indeed, my Accenture colleague wrote about “How Mobility Will Shape Tolling in the Next Five Years.”

Unlike many legacy toll systems, COTS technologies are configurable to adopt electronic tolling on the fly, extend to become interoperable with 3rd parties and strategic business partners, and can drive new opportunities by bundling integrated offers with value-added services for customers. In Portugal, electronic tolling customers can use a single transponder account to pay for different services. Without cash, drivers can pay for things like parking, gas, and fast-food meals during their travel journey.

If an agency uses proprietary software, the level of interoperability can be greatly reduced because custom connectors often need to be developed for different systems to work together. The risk factors can also run high. For example, a small system change by a partner agency with a highly customized and/or inflexible architecture (typical of many proprietary systems) can jeopardize the functionality of the custom connector. Adding to this lack of flexibility, systems using proprietary software can make operators more dependent upon that particular supplier or otherwise decrease operator independence.

Set yourself up for success with a best-in-class solution

Using COTS, tolling operators have a direct relationship with their selected software vendor. Not only is the core commitment to service, upgrades, and support established––but the vendor also brings lessons learned from other consumer industries using COTS, such as banking, utilities, retail, and travel. COTS handles high-volume transactions, works across lifecycles with transparency and traceability, and scales for future revenue-generation opportunities. In live use cases, it is safer and more convenient for users and less expensive to operate and maintain.

Electronic tolling will keep growing over the coming years and will include service diversification. Tolling operators need a scalable and flexible system to process more transactions inside this vast transportation ecosystem.

Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. This document refers to marks owned by third parties. All such third-party marks are the property of their respective owners. No sponsorship, endorsement or approval of this content by the owners of such marks is intended, expressed or implied.

[1], “Global Electronic Toll Collection and Road Usage,” December 2, 2020.

[2]  Accenture Tolling Solution

[3] Illinois Tollway, TOLLING 2020

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Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 08:30


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