SINGAPORE: During a recent parliamentary session on Monday (6 Nov), Senior Minister of State for Transport, Amy Khor, emphasized that ERP 2.0 cannot be entirely replaced by smartphone technology.
She underscored the importance of the on-board unit (OBU) can “better ensure reliability and performance, and reduce significant downstream operational challenges, such as disputes regarding charging inaccuracies”.
These statements were made in response to a Parliamentary question filed by Yip Hon Weng, the PAP MP for Yio Chu Kang SMC.
Mr Yip inquired about the cost difference between the current ERP system’s In-Vehicle Unit and the ERP 2.0’s on-board unit, ERP 2.0’s projected lifespan, and whether the LTA examined the feasibility of replicating its functions in a smartphone app, providing drivers with an alternative.
Notably, public criticisms have underscored concerns regarding the bulky design of the OBU, potentially obstructing the driver’s visibility through the windscreen and causing blind spots. Suggestions include a streamlined, user-friendly design or a simpler modem connecting to motorists’ phones via Bluetooth.
Dr Khor outlined three pivotal functions of the OBU
During her parliamentary address, Dr Khor delineated the three pivotal functions of the OBU.
Primarily, it identifies the vehicle’s position and engages with the ERP system. Second, it securely processes real-time transactions. Lastly, it provides motorists with ERP charges and vital traffic updates.
Regarding the first function, Dr Khor emphasized the potential variation in smartphone location data precision across devices, thereby elevating the risk of “erroneous charging.”
Furthermore, the OBU incorporates comprehensive security protocols, ensuring the secure handling of real-time transactions and data. Stored data remains inaccessible to motorists and external apps, characterized by a tamper-proof design and robust encryption.
Additionally, Dr Khor clarified that the OBU operates through one-way communication, incapable of receiving external app data or instructions, although it can transmit data.
Responding to MP He Ting Ru’s (WP-Sengkang) inquiry on data usage, Dr Khor emphasized that the LTA would solely utilize anonymized or aggregated data for traffic management and transport planning purposes. Vehicle-specific data would exclusively serve payment, charges, and enforcement functions, particularly for non-payment of ERP charges.
Vehicle-specific data would exclusively serve payment, charges, and enforcement functions, particularly for non-payment of ERP charges.
The LTA strictly adheres to government-wide data security standards, implementing stringent guidelines for data sharing with other government agencies.
“Inconvenience” for motorists to engage with mobile apps for ERP transactions, says Dr Khor
Regarding the use of smartphones for ERP transactions, Dr Khor highlighted the inconvenience for motorists, who would need to initiate their mobile apps, enter passcodes, or use biometric authentication each time they travel, potentially leading to inadvertent neglect of the ERP process.
“This is inconvenient to motorists, and some may inadvertently forget to start their mobile apps for the ERP.”
However, Dr Khor acknowledged earlier feedback about the OBU’s inelegant and bulky design, mentioning the development of a mobile interface for those who opt against installing the touchscreen display. This mobile interface allows motorists to access the information typically displayed on the touchscreen via their smartphones.
Reiterating the LTA’s stance, Dr Khor confirmed that there are no immediate plans to introduce distance-based charging. She emphasized that any plans to implement this approach must consider multiple factors.
Clear signage and alerts for motorists
In response to a Parliamentary Question raised by Lim Biow Chuan, PAP MP for Mountbatten SMC, about how motorists will be informed of ERP charges with the on-board unit, Dr Khor elaborated on the measures under ERP 2.0.
Notably, clear signage will be placed at charging points, and the on-board unit will send alerts as the vehicle approaches these locations, displaying the relevant charges.
In contrast, ERP 1.0 displays charges on the in-vehicle unit near gantries, which will be phased out as ERP 2.0, utilizing a global navigation satellite system, becomes operational.
Dr Khor said Motorists can receive ERP information on compatible mobile apps if they opt not to install the touchscreen display.
While the new on-board unit is mandatory, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) confirmed that the touchscreen display is optional. Motorists can choose to install only the processing unit and antenna, with the components integrated into a single unit for motorcycles.