Newly proposed Highway toll collection system

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

Recently, the Road Transport and Highways Minister said that the government plans to implement a new highway toll collection system based on the global navigation satellite system before the model code of conduct for the 2024 election kicks in.

About the newly proposed highway tolling system:

  • Global navigation satellite system’s implementation will involve an On-Board Unit (OBU), or a tracking device, fitted inside a vehicle whose location can be mapped using GAGAN, the Indian satellite navigation system with an approximate accuracy of 10 meters. 

About GNSS

  • Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) refers to a constellation of satellites providing signals from space that transmit positioning and timing data to GNSS receivers and the receivers then use this data to determine location.
  • By definition, GNSS provides global coverage.
  • The performance of GNSS is assessed using four criteria:
    • Accuracy: The difference between a receiver’s measured and real position, speed or time;
    • Integrity: A system’s capacity to provide a threshold of confidence and, in the event of an anomaly in the positioning data, an alarm;
    • Continuity: A system’s ability to function without interruption.
    • Availability: The percentage of time a signal fulfills the above accuracy, integrity, and continuity criteria.
  • The coordinates of the entire length of the country’s national highways will have to be logged with the help of digital image processing.
  • The software will be used to assign the toll rate on a particular highway, calculate the toll amount for a vehicle as per the distance traveled by it, and then deduct it from a wallet linked to the OBU. 
  • The system will additionally have gantries, or arches mounted with CCTV cameras, at various points on a highway for enforcement purposes. 
    • These will capture an image of the vehicle’s high-security registration plate and cross-verify if a road user is trying to trick the system by either removing the tracking device or traveling without an OBU onboard.
  • The technology aims to provide users the benefit of paying toll only for the actual distance traveled on a highway or (pay-as-you-use) eventually allowing barrier-free movement.
  • It will lower the operational cost as compared to FASTags due to the absence of toll plazas and less number of entities in the toll collection process.

Challenges involved in the implementation:

  • One of the major challenges posed by this technology is that of recovering the toll amount if a road user fails to clear his payment after completing a journey on a highway, for instance, if the digital wallet linked with the OBU is empty. There are no barriers involved that can stop a non-compliant vehicle.
  • There are other issues such as: -
    • When a vehicle travels on a highway without an OBU device linked or the OBU device is deliberately switched off to avoid payment or if a car’s OBU is installed on a truck to pay less toll. 
    • Gantry-mounted Automatic Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR)-based systems for capturing violations have to be set up on highways across India and no such infrastructure exists in the country today.
  • The success of an ANPR system depends on the quality of the license plates, which are currently limited to a few cities and states. 
  • The government will also have to amend the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules to:
    • Provide for the recovery of unpaid toll
    • Define offences 
    • Require the necessity of an OBU in vehicles.

Issue of privacy involved:

  • The Ministry has decided to use the GAGAN satellite system and not GPS, which is owned by the U.S., to ensure data security within the country. 
  • The Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 passed in Parliament last year will address privacy concerns.
  • The widening exemptions granted to government agencies may facilitate increased state surveillance.

What will happen to Fastags?

  • The Radio frequency identification-based FASTags for toll collection was rolled out in 2016 and made mandatory only from February 16, 2021. 
    • By December 2023, 98.9% of vehicles passing through toll fee plazas at national highways were FASTag compliant. 
    • Toll collection increased 1.5 times from ₹17,942 crore in 2016-2017 to ₹27,744 crore in 2020-2021 at National Highway fee plazas due to a multitude of factors, which included rising number of vehicles as well as revision in tolls and adoption of FASTags
  • The new tolling system will co-exist with the FASTag-based toll collection as the government has not yet decided on whether OBUs will be made mandatory for all vehicles or only for new vehicles. 

About FASTags:

  • It is a device that employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly while the vehicle is in motion. 
  • This RFID Tag is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle and enables a customer to make toll payments directly from the account which is linked to FASTag.
  • It offers the convenience of cashless payment along with benefits like - savings on fuel and time as the customer does not have to stop at the toll plaza.

Significance of the newly proposed highway toll collection system

It represents a significant advancement and has several important implications: -

  • Improved Accuracy and Efficiency: By using the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and On-Board Units (OBUs), the system aims to provide more accurate and efficient toll collection. 
    • This could lead to reduced traffic congestion and faster passage through toll points.
  • Pay-as-You-Use Model: The system's ability to calculate tolls based on the actual distance traveled by a vehicle promotes a fairer "pay-as-you-use" model. 
    • This could benefit both commuters and long-distance travelers who currently pay fixed toll amounts.
  • Operational Cost Savings: The system's reliance on digital technology, without the need for physical toll plazas, can lead to lower operational costs. 
    • This could result in savings for both the government and toll operators.


The newly proposed highway toll collection system in India, based on the global navigation satellite system, represents a significant advancement in tolling technology. It promises improved accuracy, efficiency, and fairness in toll collection, potentially leading to reduced congestion, cost savings, and a more seamless and better travel experience for road users in India.

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