Wednesday 25 October 2023

Singapore launches ERP 2.0... finally

The Straits Times reports that Singapore has, finally, announced to roll out of its ERP 2.0 On Board Units (OBUs) over then next two years. Starting in November 2023, fleet operators will get OBUs installed in their vehicles, and from no later than April 2024, new vehicles will have the new OBUs installed.  Remaining vehicles in Singapore will be required to have the OBU installed based on date of registration over the subsequent two years.  

Installation is estimated to take three hours for a car.  All motor vehicles in Singapore will be required to have the new OBUs, including motorcycles (which have a smaller single unit OBU).  Installation will be free of charge if done within a two month window specified by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) (notified to the registered vehicle owner in advance). 

Payment options will remain the same including direct debit of credit or debit cards, or use of prepaid stored value cards (which can be inserted into the base unit of the OBU).

The car unit is in three components:

  • Processing Unit
  • Antenna Unit
  • Touchscreen Display
The image below is the official depiction of the ERP 2.0 installation.

Singapore ERP 2.0 OBU for cars

The touchscreen display is optional, as motorists can choose to use their smartphone which will deliver road pricing and traffic data through a choice of three apps. 

The report notes why the LTA did not choose smartphones as the processing devices:
  • Security for real-time charging transactions from prepaid stored value cards
  • Reliability, given the range of smartphone models and operating systems available (including older models)
  • Concern over ensuring whether an app is functioning, the smartphone is sufficiently charged and is connected to the mobile network.

Singapore's highly intrusive ERP gantries will not be removed until the installation is completed, after which they will be progressively removed and replaced with signage, and in some cases Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras for spot enforcement (and to ensure ERP 2.0 devices are not malfunctioning). 

Importantly, Singapore has no plans to change its policy on road pricing, and plans to keep charging at specific points on the network as it does now.

The installation of ERP 2.0 is three years later than originally planned by the Singaporean Government. It had been delayed by a combination of the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic, and subsequent chip supply shortages hindering the production of the new system.  In 2016 I wrote that Singapore was planning to have the new system up and running by 2020.  It is unclear if the budget for the system S$556m has been exceeded as a result.

What it does mean is that Singapore can be declared as having the world's first GNSS-based congestion pricing system.  It has the flexibility to charge by distance, but also the flexibility to introduce "virtual gantries" anywhere in the network, and with the installation of OBU 2.0 as compulsory, it means there needs to be only small-scale enforcement of whether the devices are installed and functioning, unlike cities with many vehicles visiting from other jurisdictions. Foreign vehicles in Singapore without an OBU are charged on a per day basis for the time spent in Singapore, at a rate of S$5 per day, regardless of the extent of use of ERP charged roads. 

Singapore's OBU 2.0 may provide a benchmark for other cities, although the need for three hours of installation time, and at least two components, is likely to be seen as expensive and intrusive for many other cities. Nevertheless, Singapore still remains the gold standard of congestion pricing systems internationally, and it remains notable that in a city-state that has relatively low levels of evasion and little difficulty in enforcing traffic offences, that it continues to be sceptical of the reliability and security of using smartphones for road pricing.  This might reflect the commitment it had already sunk into the new OBUs, but it has accepted the use of smartphones as a customer interface and information system.

This video has been published by Channel News Asia (of Singapore) about the new OBU:

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