Intelligent, Dynamic Toll
Intelligent roads, able to adapt in a smart manner to changing traffic loads and circumstances to maximise throughput and ease congestion, has been a dream of designers for many years now. Ways to make the driving experience more pleasant, with less delays, less idiocy and less problems all round would turn modern city driving into a fun experience for all.
The Israelis are experimenting with an other new system to help achieve this goal. Like most such systems it sounds simple in theory, but is extremely difficult in practice. A toll system with innate intelligence, able to scan the traffic and set fees for road usage according to how heavy the loads are.
The first such toll is a special highway lane on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The only legal way to use this lane for the entire stretch of road, is to pay the toll and slide onto it. So, pay more for driving in return for getting there far quicker. However, such a system would be silly to use in relatively light traffic if there was a fixed toll.
So the challenge is to set the fees at a level that will ensure the lanes capacity is utilised to the fullest, and traffic jams in the rest of the road are minimised to guarantee that people will use it properly.
The system uses induction loops in the road surface to register the speed and numbers of vehicles on the free driving lanes and the fast lane. The heart of the system is a complex algorithm-based expert system that uses the measured data to calculate the toll fees once per minute. When traffic gets heavier, the fee increases, which deters some drivers, and keeps the lane flowing smoothly. When traffic lightens, the toll fee drops, giving drivers an incentive to use the lane. The updated toll fee is displayed on electronic traffic signs at entrances to the fast lane.
A CCTV system at all entrances and at periodic (unannounced) points along the lane, films the vehicles license plate number, performs OCR on it and identifies the vehicle through the national registry. This lets them know who to bill for use of the lane.
The fast lane is 12 kilometres long and makes it possible to cover the distance in about 12 minutes, compared to the 30 to 60 minutes the trip can take during peak hours.