Digital, contactless and easy toll payments: a quick look at RFID

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Argie Aguja
Argie Aguja
Argie is a wordsmith by day and bookworm at night — enamored by travel and food. When not watching documentaries, he immerses in the world of manga, anime, world history, current events and anything related to tech.

Back in June 2014, the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) was the first tollway to introduce a prepaid electronic toll collection system for quicker and more efficient payment of toll fees. From then on, a radio frequency identification (RFID) will be used in collecting toll — where a paper-thin battery-less RFID sticker was to be installed in windshields or headlights of vehicles.

Modernizing the tollway experience 

RFID stickers were designed to decongest the toll plazas by reducing time it takes to pay the toll, thus avoiding potential bottlenecks. Automated and without the intervention of human hands, using this sticker can quicken the transaction times at the toll gates, at the rate of three to four seconds per vehicle.

Motorists just need to slow down to pay the toll, and the RFID sticker will do the rest. Digital sensors at the toll plaza will scan the windshield, activate the radio/antenna to identify the vehicle, and then take payment. Motorists can easily reload their RFID sticker accounts via online bank transfers, credit/debit cards, digital payment kiosks, or cashless payment portals like PayMaya, GCash or Coins.PH.

For a smoother experience, the Toll Collection Interoperability project was launched in 2017 that will require toll road companies to make system adjustments and allow both interoperability and integrated toll collection. By doing so, motorists can seamlessly use the RFID tags issued by a toll road operator at the toll plaza of another operator.

Unlikely catalyst

Though the RFID technology has been available for quite some time now, not everyone has made the shift to cashless toll payment. Yet the advent of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has prompted authorities to speed up the adoption of RFID technology in the country’s major expressways, both in an effort to avoid person-to-person contact via exchange of physical cash at toll plazas and to maximize efficiency by avoiding jams and long queues at toll gates.

Last Aug. 13, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade signed Department Order No. 2020-012, mandating expressway users to pay their toll using contactless payment systems. It is hoped that automated transactions using this contactless toll collection will address the health and safety concerns amid the pandemic.

There is a need to speed up the transition to cash-free toll collection though, as the government has set a deadline — all expressways must transition into 100 percent electronic toll collection no later than Nov. 2

Shifting to the new normal

In June, SMC Tollways announced that it will implement cashless payments across all of its roads. The first phase covers the elevated section of the Skyway, NAIAX and SLEx starting October, while the second phase will cover at-grade sections of STAR Tollways and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) in January 2021.

SMC is offering free installation of AutoSweep RFID stickers to all vehicles that use their expressways, in an effort to boost adoption among motorists. For its part, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) is also offering free Easytrip RFID stickers for motorists who use the toll roads it operates.

Where and how to get

Both MPTC and SMC are offering fast and free RFID installation in their respective systems; the Autosweep RFID that can be used at Skyway, South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), NAIA Expressway (NAIAX), Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway, Manila-Cavite Expressway (MCX), and TPLEX. Meanwhile, the Easytrip RFID can be used at North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), Cavitex, and Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAx).

Both systems offer fairly similar steps. Download the form at the toll operator’s website, attach supporting documents and submit them at the preferred installation site where personnel will assist you in the installation of the RFID and the activation of the RFID account. Secure your own RFID sticker/tag at any of the installation sites mentioned here.

For more information and inquiries, motorists can check out the Autosweep website or visit the EasyTrip portal.

For those wishing who want enroll their RFID sticker into the interoperability program, check out the steps here.

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