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Public skepticism surrounds LTA’s ERP 2.0 rollout amidst concerns over ‘bulky’ design and rising costs

As LTA prepares for the ERP 2.0 launch, public skepticism surrounds the “bulky” design, drawing attention online. Escalating driving costs, linked to rising COE prices, are worrying Singaporeans.

Concerns extend to increased charges affecting transportation and household grocery delivery expenses.

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On Monday (23 Oct), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) set the gears in motion for its advanced Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) 2.0 system, with company vehicles slated to be the first recipients of the new on-board units (OBUs) starting 1 November.

LTA noted that the current in-vehicle unit (IU) will be replaced by the new OBU, which consists of three components – a processing unit, an antenna, and a touchscreen display.

ERP is a system used to manage road congestion in Singapore. Currently, All Singapore-registered vehicles must install an IU to drive through operating ERP gantries.

If you do not have an IU, there is a penalty of S$70.00 for each operating ERP gantry you drive through.

In a statement, LTA said fleet vehicles will be the first to have the OBU installed, followed by all other vehicles, which will be scheduled for installation in batches starting from the first quarter of 2024. The entire OBU installation process is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

For motorcycles, these components are integrated into a single-piece OBU. The OBU will be provided free of charge to all eligible Singapore-registered vehicles during the installation period.

The new OBU will have a touchscreen display providing ERP-related information, and road and traffic updates, such as the locations of Silver Zones, School Zones, speed cameras, and bus lanes.

Additionally, the touchscreen display is designed to support features such as real-time traffic alerts, payment of roadside parking, and tolls at checkpoints for Singapore-registered cars.

Motorists are encouraged to install all three OBU components to access the full range of features. However, LTA has considered public feedback and provided an option for motorists who prefer not to install the touchscreen display.

These motorists can access key OBU information via compatible mobile applications on their smartphones. LTA has released a software development kit (SDK) for developers to integrate ERP 2.0 data securely.

The new OBU is designed to work with the existing charging frameworks, including ERP and parking gantries. There will be no immediate introduction of distance-based charging, although ERP 2.0 has the capability to support it through its Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

Netizens question LTA’s “bulky” design choice for new On-Board Unit

After examining the feedback from netizens on The Straits Times and CNA‘s Facebook posts, it’s evident that a considerable number of opinions are challenging the LTA’s choice of a “bulky” design.

Increasing concerns surround the rising expenses associated with vehicle ownership, particularly in light of the substantial surge in Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices. Moreover, worries about the possible cascading effects on transportation costs have also come to the forefront.

Some individuals have expressed worries about potential hindrances to the driver’s visibility through the windscreen, citing the possibility of blind spots. Others have recommended the adoption of a more streamlined and user-friendly design.

Some netizens have criticized the new devices for being overly bulky, suggesting that an upgrade should prioritize a sleeker, more compact design.

A comment raised the point that there is no necessity for three bulky components, deeming it a regressive step.

He suggested that improvements can be made, citing the example of Malaysia using a sticker strip of RFID. The emphasis was placed on the importance of keeping things simple.

“Potential blindspot”

One user emphasized the need to reduce the frame’s border width, as it reportedly creates blind spots during navigation on narrow roads and while negotiating tight turns in narrow carparks.

Another comment pointed out the proliferation of devices on the windshield, leading to increased blind spots. These include thick A-pillars, built-in infotainment display dashboards, large front cameras, mobile phones, and even the driver’s visor.

The issue was highlighted further with the mention of taxis already equipped with their company devices.

A netizen pointed out the significant size of the processing unit, underscoring the expectation for technology to become smaller, less obtrusive, and more efficient.

Additionally, the netizen humorously queried whether the LTA was trying to take a trip back to 1984 with the current design.

“Innovation is supposed to solve problems”

A netizen expressed their disappointment, stating that innovation is intended to resolve issues.

The comment likened the recent changes to mere attempts to drain resources from the people, comparing it to a straw in a milkshake.

A netizen put forth the argument that all the Land Transport Authority (LTA) really needs is a straightforward modem that connects to our mobile phones via Bluetooth.

‘Having a car in Singapore is a luxury’

Interestingly, several comments have underscored the significant impact of the shocking increase in Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices, combined with the introduction of ERP 2.0, indicating that the cost of owning a vehicle is set to escalate.

Some individuals have even expressed their intentions to abandon driving altogether.

One netizen expressed relief that her car had already expired, recognizing that the increased COE prices have transformed car ownership into a luxury.

Concerns arise over potential ripple effects on transportation and grocery prices

As concerns mount regarding the possible loss of privacy for daily motorists due to ERP 2.0 implementation, there is a parallel worry about the broader impact on various costs.

This includes the potential increase in transportation and delivery costs, which could ultimately transfer to everyday consumers.

Certain comments shed light on the potential impact of heightened charges across all transportation modes, emphasizing its effect on the delivery costs for essential household groceries.

Additionally, another view suggested that this could significantly affect individuals dependent on long-distance travel, such as taxi passengers, Grab users, and recipients of delivery services.

Consequently, this situation may lead to an inevitable fare increase, placing an additional burden on consumers.

A comment emphasized the implications of rising COE prices and the increasing ERP costs.

He criticized the concept of distance-based charging, citing it as a source of hidden charges and bias towards certain routes.

Additionally, the comment noted that the so-called extra features can now be efficiently accomplished on a mobile phone, highlighting the increased processing power and efficiency of smartphones.

Then-transport minister Ong Ye Kung defended ERP 2.0’s design

Despite public scepticism surrounding the LTA’s choice to adopt a bulky design for ERP 2.0 and queries regarding the integration of the ERP system with smartphones, the then-Transport Minister, Ong Ye Kung, notably defended the design in 2020.

In response to public feedback, Mr Ong at the time provided several justifications.

He explained that the decision for the 3-piece design for the car OBUs was influenced by technical considerations related to heat management in hot conditions, as a processing unit on the dashboard might struggle without a substantial cooling unit.

On motorist’s concern over the OBU windscreen unit so big? It will block the windscreen, Mr Ong clarified that the dimensions of the new display unit are only slightly bigger than the current IU, and consultations will be conducted with workshops to minimize windscreen blockage during installation.

While acknowledging motorists’ preference for their own navigation via smartphones, Mr Ong emphasized the functionality of the display unit in providing real-time ERP transaction information and other traffic-related updates.

“Other than showing real-time ERP transaction information, LTA can use it to pump out other important traffic-related information when there is a need to. Best to provide it now so that other good uses can be incorporated in future. ”

On using smartphones in place of the display unit, Ong Ye Kung pointed out that data security and operational issues like battery life and forgetfulness could pose challenges, leading to the decision to use a standard issue initially.

Initially unveiled by then-Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew in 2013, the satellite-based ERP system was a forward-looking solution, promising features such as couponless street parking and dynamic charging for off-peak cars.

However, the journey from conception to realization has been anything but smooth. The project, which was supposed to be operational by 2020, faced delays, first to 2021, and then to the second half of 2023, due to a global microchip shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adding to the project’s complexity are the logistics involved in the installation of OBUs across the multitude of vehicles on Singapore’s roads.

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Looks like ERP 2.0 will include mandatory government tracking of your private vehicle, 24/7. Singapore is now officially a province of China.

If I read correctly the response from the government side, the minister, the LTA spokesperson, LTA’s main concern looks more like money that need to be collected from the motorists has to be collected with no remote chance of the OBU failing.
Perhaps with LTA is only willing to pay peanuts, so the developer and supplier of the OBU will can only give you this size at best. Any smaller, LTA need to pay more.

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