GPS based toll- more disadvantages than benefits - eNidhi India Travel Blog

GPS based toll- more disadvantages than benefits

Govt of India is planning to roll out a GPS based toll system for vehicle owners that will render current fastag system redundant. There is no clarity yet as to how this technology will work, but below is the broad understanding

  • Each vehicle will be fitted with a GPS tracking system. Of course vehicle owners will be forced to shell out thousands of rupees for this.
  • GPS will track how many KMs of toll road/highway the vehicle is using and money will be debited from owner’s bank account.

While this looks great on paper, India doesn’t have a good record of implementing any scheme successfully. Demonetization created a mess for people, GST roll out was buggy, after years fastag is somewhat streamlined now. GPS based toll is not active in any country as far as I understand. India rolling it out abruptly without a trial/pilot, without fixing solutions for various complex scenarios would be a disaster.

GPS based toll collection: Pros:

Only advantage is some money might be saved if you've used just a few kms of the highway on the other side of toll booth. At present we pay to cross the toll booth and not necessarily to use the highway. Between toll booths we can commute unlimited while just 1 km on the other side could cost you 80-90 INR or more.


GPS based toll collection: Cons:

1. Several thousand additional expense for each car owner:

Already 600 Rs is taken from all vehicle owners for fastag. Don’t think a single penny will be returned. On top of it vehicle owners will be forced to shell out thousands of rupees for GPS tracker. Typical GPS devices cost around 3000 INR. Govt will give contract to some company, who will have monopoly so they will charge more.


2. GPS Maintenance charges

GPS device may need battery, might involve maintenance, replacement- so how much extra burden on vehicle owners because of this- not yet clear. But for sure this will consume more time and effort to keep GPS device in good condition.


3. How to prevent double charging?

Let us say your car is put on a flatbed truck and being taken to a garage. In current scenario the truck has to pay a toll at the toll booth and car goes free as car is just a cargo and not using the road. How will this work in GPS system? In my guess both car and truck will be charged money as GPS system can’t understand that the car is on the truck.


4. Risk of every road becoming toll road…

Today if you wish to collect toll fee you have to set up a toll booth. People will notice and protest if too many toll booths are created. if every road is to be tolled when why collect road tax with vehicle purchase? With GPS based system, every day a new road can be added to the toll system and people will have no option to protest or object. Govt will find it very easy to add another road to list of toll roads or silently increase the fee from 3 INR to 5 INR without taking any consent from consumers, without giving them any choices. So it will lead to day light robbery.


3. Extra work for law enforcement

GPS will be a new harassment opportunity to traffic police. Some smart people will find a way to disable GPS tracker so that they can travel toll free. So police will have to check if the GPS tracker is active on the vehicles.


4. It is not clear how local exemption will work.

At present locals with say 5 kms are exempted from toll booths if they show local ID proof or RC with local address. With GPS based tracker how many kms around one’s home is exempted from toll charge is not known.


5. Privacy issues:

Govt can continuously track any vehicle owner through GPS. This could breach people’s privacy. Govt will eventually use data to its advantage- like if data shows everyone is going to the beach on the weekend, suddenly the toll rate for roads leading to the beach could be increased for the weekend.


6. More speeding tickets

GPS data will result in serious privacy issues. It will also be used to issue speeding tickets. Out of 100 kms journey, 10 kms I drove at 120 kmph because road was empty and it was safe to go fast- speeding ticket comes home. Remaining 90 kms I couldn’t even cross 50 kmph due to bad roads, traffic etc and wasted lots of my time- who will compensate for this?


7. Delay in billing will impact commercial vehicles

Will a taxi driver get GPS Toll fee immediately so that he can get it from customer? If the report takes its own sweet time, how taxi operators are supposed to recover it from customers? Let us say out of 50 kms taxi ride, 10 kms were free road, 10 kms charged at 3 INR per km, 20 kms charged at 4 INR per km, 10 km at 1 INR per km. Ideally as a passenger I need to pay only 30+120+10 = 160 INR extra as toll. But as this information takes time, taxi driver may collect 4 INR per km extra for entire journey and back- 100 km * 4 = 400 INR extra instead of 160. How to ensure this won't happen?


8. Stolen vehicles

If vehicle is stolen owner still has to keep paying the toll?


9. Amount of deduction is not known yet.

Today toll booths charge as high as 5 to 6 INR per km (At Surathkal, 55 INR for 10 kms) to 2-3 INR per km on an average. Same day return is given some concessions.


Today I can calculate my toll expense by knowing how many toll booths I will cross. In future it will be a function of how many kms I drive and on which highway- different roads may have different amount.


10 Build a compensation system first.

If Govt is proceeding with GPS based toll system, first they should implement a satellite based pothole detection and compensation system. If a vehicle owner is forced to negotiate a pothole, he/she should be compensated say 100 INR for the trouble and deduct it from contractor who is not maintaining the road.


Collecting money from people is easy- what about providing service first?

If a road is under maintenance, has potholes, one of the 4 lanes are closed, then toll collection should stop. Does the govt dare to commit to that?


11. Accuracy of GPS will be an issue.

You could be using a service road or a road 200 meters away from the highway. But if GPS thinks you’re using the highway, your money will be deducted.


Where to complain? If money is wrongly debited how to get it back? With no physical office (like toll booth) there won’t be anyone to contact and complain. Money once gone is gone for good.


12. Forced linking to bank account

Not just GPS tracker, Govt will mostly force people to auto link to bank accounts so that money can be directly debited, without consent from vehicle owner. As a citizen I need control whom I pay, how much I pay. If there is unfair charge I need a mechanism to get it back. I can't assume whatever GPS decides is right.


13. No option to skip toll booth

Today if I am willing to take a detour, I can skip a toll booth by taking a turn, use local roads for several kms and rejoin highway later. Toll booths are strategically set up in locations with no easy alternate options so if vehicle owners take a detour fuel cost will be same as toll cost. But still we have this option if you prefer. But this will be gone with GPS based tracker.


Govt will be saving crores of rupees- now no need to maintain thousands of toll booths, each with 20-30 employees etc. Their salary, cost of maintenance will be saved. But this advantage is not likely to be passed to consumers.


14. Fraud protection

In Fastag, money stays in wallet. If I have added 1000 Rs to my wallet, in case of any fraud, wrong deductions my max risk is this 1000 INR. If GPS tracker is linked to bank account, how to prevent fraud? A fraudster may empty entire bank account in a jiffy. Who will own this risk? Vehicle owners should have a control to maintain a separate wallet or what should be the max amount that can be deducted from their account for GPS Toll.


Why Govt of India is mulling for the GPS based toll system?

Easy way to raise funds for 2024 election. There are 3 crore plus vehicles using fastag in India as of March 2021. Should be 4 crore now (May 2022). Let us say each GPS device costs 3000 INR, even if 2 crore vehicles are forced to buy, that is 6000 crore worth of business. With 40% commission BJP is being accused of, easily 2400 crore in party funds through this move.


GPS based toll collection is not going to be as smooth as it is projected. The solution would need strong backend support, well defined processes to compute and manage settlements and issues

  • Each vehicle should be tracked how much kms of toll road it has used
  • Money should be collected proportionately and paid to respective toll companies
  • Need to manage local exemptions
  • Need a process to handle disputes, vehicle owners who don’t have GPS or don’t have money in bank for auto debit.
  • Some toll companies/local bodies not tagged to GPS solution would still insist on cash/fastag, so vehicle owners may get charged double
  • Dispute handling mechanism- what is vehicle owner supposed to do if deduction is false

Fastag has lots of issues, but as usual Govt is not keen to fix them. Govt could have fixed current issues in interstate vehicle usage, but instead they launched a new BH registration system. Let us see how this new GPS toll system works.


Toll roads are built with BOT contract- build, operate, transfer- toll operator gets to operate for 10-15 years, recover their investment and then toll is supposed to stop. But no toll booths are closed after their term. Toll companies pay bribe to politicians and authorities and get their contract extended. Can the Govt commit to stop collecting toll money after specific time frame?


I think this is what will happen

Govt will force this new technology on car owners causing them several thousand rupees in expense

Physical toll booths won’t go away overnight as it will take at least 3-4 years to get India’s 4 crore car owners to install GPS. Rampant corruption will ensure milking maximum money from customers.


Knowing how Govt has rolled out GST, demonetization etc, I don't think Govt will do any pilot for GPS toll. They will start all India rollout without proper testing, preparation and solution for all scenarios, creating a mess and frustrated vehicle owners. It will take 4-5 years before things can stabilize.


No other country seems to be using this mechanism (GPS based toll). They have different types of automated deduction but they all are based on vehicle passing a specific point. Are you aware of any country where GPS based toll is in use?


Below is what I suggest Govt should do:

  • Take it up as a pilot in one city or few hundred car owners willing to volunteer
  • Test the system, implement solution for various scenarios called out above (local exemption, flatbed transport, taxi driver situation, damaged/roads under repair to be excluded etc)
  • Let Govt invest in GPS tracker initially without passing on purchase cost and maintenance cost to owners
  • Those who have got GPS should be refunded on their fastag purchase cost and balance. not be forced to maintain fastag. If a toll booth is not ready for GPS toll, it should be free for vehicle owners
  • No monopoly. There should be 3-4 vendors so that customers have choice.

What are your thoughts?

4 comments:

  1. Very well written. Let Government first fix Fastag issues.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Without even knowing the full details of the project, i can't understand how you can come to this conclusion ?

    Many of the points you have raised are totally WRONG.

    Govt is doing the pilot project of this scheme, as per newspaper reports.

    Don't jump to any conclusions, before knowing the facts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will be happy if I am wrong and everything is taken care of. But there are no such confirmation/info online and knowing past experience, I doubt. Let us see

      Delete

Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days.Use Anonymous option if you don't wish to leave your name/ID behind- Shrinidhi

Powered by Blogger.