Plus Malaysia Bhd (Plus) is integrating RFID into all its highways, with at least one lane per toll plaza, by early 2022.
The system would provide a cashless payment alternative for motorists, who will be able to pay using their Touch ‘n Go e-wallet.
Teras Teknologi Sdn Bhd CEO Anwar Ishak said the TnG RFID system would be rolled out along with an Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system.
Teras is a subsidiary of Plus which develops technology solutions for the highway toll concessionaire, including the existing Touch ‘n Go and SmartTag systems.
As its tolls were a closed system – where motorists check-in then pay upon exit based on distance travelled, rather than a fixed amount at each tollgate – it needs the RFID system to be at both ends so the same system can record people going in and out.
Plus chief technology officer Kang Yew Jin explained that the ANPR system provided a secondary layer of identification so that if there was any confusion on where the motorist entered the highway, it would be able to figure out how much to charge them.
This would avoid penalising motorists who accidentally use a different payment method to enter the highway, and assist in disputes about payment errors.
The ANPR system uses high-resolution cameras at both entry and exit lanes to recognise the passing vehicles’ number plates and works with the Toll Validation Centre (TVC) to seamlessly process customers’ payments.
Kang said the validation system’s AI was still being improved, and would be assisted by human staff for cases where the number plate is illegible due to being damaged, dirtied, or using non-standardised, stylised number plates.
When working properly, it will allow motorists to pass-through tolls faster, at up to 30km/h. This is compared to the SmartTag system, which has a 20km/h pass-through speed.
The system had been running a pilot test since July 2020 at the Hutan Kampung-Sungai Dua closed highway, which runs from Kedah to Penang.
Anwar said the test resulted in higher pass-through speeds, reduced congestion and fewer cases of motorists having insufficient balance to pay the toll as they could top up their e-wallet in app rather than needing to go to a physical top-up kiosk.
Asked during a media roundtable on the cost of implementing the new technology, he replied that it would be lower than the SmartTag system once it was scaled up, as it used fewer proprietary systems.
He said the timeline of it replacing SmartTag would depend on the rate of adoption by motorists, though the government had set a target to introduce a multi-lane free flow (MLFF) highway dependant on RFID by 2026.
A MLFF highway is a barrier-less highway where drivers make contactless payment by driving under gantries equipped with scanners, rather than through toll plazas with barriers.
This is similar to Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing system that also uses gantries to detect and charge road users passing through, which works at speeds from 20-30km/h on arterial roads and 45-65km/h on expressways.
Asked if anyone else would have access to the camera data – like the police or Internal Revenue Board – he said “the possibility is there” but did not elaborate further.
He also said that the system could be opened to other e-wallets, though they had not started exploring such partnerships.