6C could play major role in interoperability - E-ZPass Group issues RFI, priority in OmniAir certification
By Peter Samuel
2012-06-11: The drive for national interoperability in electronic toll collection is focussing increasingly on the ISO 18000 6C standard (6C) so far only implemented in states relatively smaller in tolling - Georgia, Washington, Colorado and Utah. A 6C User Group comprising tollers in the four early 6C adopter states has ensured that it will be the first toll technology to go to independent certification under OmniAir. And the E-ZPass Group sees 6C as having mayor potential for north American interoperability.
PJ Wilkins the E-ZPass Group executive director says this interest in the potential of 6C as providing a possible single tag usable thoughout America is the reason behind a "Request for Information (12-22) ISO 18000-6C Communication Standard" issued June 1 by MTA Bridges and Tunnels providing procurement service for the E-ZPass Group as a whole.
Wilkins: "6C has some very attractive features but our members feel there's a lot we don't know about it. There has been limited testing of it, especially in conjunction with the operation of others tags using other protocols."
The E-ZPass Group chief executive said that with several suppliers offering multi protocol readers there is interest in how accurate 6C is in different environments, how well does it accept write-back (for trip tolling,) how does it handle lane straddles and how well does it perform simultaneous reads with other protocol transponders in a traffic stream of mixed transponders.
"We'd like to know what they know, so we can think about what needs to be tested. We've got an excellent protocol of our own (the IAG protocol incorporated in existing and new generation E-ZPass transponders and readers,) but we are committing ourselves to national interoperability so we need to see what's involved in reading tags like 6C along with IAG protocol tags."
The RFI outlines the essentials of the 6C standard then asks for:
- detailed description of any equipment offered that uses 6C
- how memory is managed
- a communication session
- list of other manufacturers of similar interoperable equipment tested and verified
- any proprietary enhancements
- power consumption
- power output at the antenna face
- environmental conditions for operations and storage
- dimensions of equipment
- data rates for read-only and read/write
- any performance data in slow toll plaza and open road settings
- any limits on interoperability alongside non-6C equipment
- any performance data on interoperable operations
They also ask for information on the extent of deployment of the 6C devices, the volumes of transactions handled annually, weekly, including daily peaks, and the time equipment has been deployed.
The RFI is signed by Lyn Gore, director ITS Contracts at MTAB&T on behalf of the whole group. Responses are due by 3:30 June 28. We've posted a copy of the RFI at the bottom.
The RFI, Wilkins says, is just a first step. Another important move he says is the beginning of independent certification by Omniair Certification Services (OSC) a spinoff of the OmniAir Group which is giving top priority to certification of 6C. OSC will certify compliance with 6C standards with field testing using cars and gantry mounted equipment at a test track leased from ACS now Xerox in Crofton MD, a suburb about midway between Washington DC, Annapolis and Baltimore.
The first certification tests of 6C will be done by year's end.
E470 loves its 6Cs
At an OmniAir organized video conference last Friday Dave Kristick, chairman of the 6C Users Group and chief operations officer of E470 tollroad in Denver CO spoke highly of 6C. The E470 authority began a phase out of California Title 21 hardcase transponders last year in favor of 6C sticker tags. Kristick says they get notably better accuracy in reads with 6C. They have had no problems of interference. And they are saving over $1 million a year in tag purchases and mailing expenses. Customers like them better and they are easier to install.
Texas and Florida interested in 6C
Texas and Florida toll people make heavy use of eGo sticker tags a proprietary TransCore engineered variant of ISO 18000 6B, a predecessor technology to 6C, and North Carolina has also adopted the eGo tag while Washington state still has some in use at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
The 6B and 6C tags have much in common so Texas and Florida might well transition to the 6C in order to get the benefits of competing suppliers. Kristick told the video conference that people in Texas and Florida have expressed strong interest in 6C and will be following the OmniAir certification closely.
California has America's oldest and least capable electronic toll system in the 1980s design Title 21 equipment and is a prime candidate for transition to 6C.
A major attraction is the ability to draw on the large installed base of 6C manufacturing which enables tags to be sold at $1.50 each, about a fifth the cost of any competing transponders. 6C is well established in car parking, containers and supply chain inventory of all kinds of items in warehouses.
Another possible future technology for toll collection could be 5.9 Gigahertz (GHz.)
(6C operates in the same frequency space of 860 to 960 megahertz [MHz] as all the other North American toll systems.)
Kapsch continues to find places to do demonstrations of 5.9GHz as a toll collection technology - E470 CO, Port of Hood River Bridge WA, Lee Co FL - and the company recently rolled out a 5.9GHz transponder for truckers for inspection station use. The PrePass group that manages truck inspections has said it is possible there could be a transition to 5.9GHz but has made no commitments to the transition.
5.9GHz has much larger data rates so is attractive for rapid transmission of safety and vehicle condition data, navigation and routing. It seems likely to be a major conduit for data under the 'connected vehicle' program. Toll collection is quite adequately served by the lesser data rates of the 860 to 960MHz, but one regulatory scenario has the federal government mandating 5.9GHz in new model cars or trucks from 2015 or so onward.
If that were to happen and 5.9GHz transponders were to begin appearing in vehicles the toll industry could take advantage of them for tolling. But since they cost 3 times an E-ZPass transponder and 20 times a 6C sticker tag tolling seems unlikely to be a driver for 5.9GHz.
The E-ZPass Group of toll agencies request for information out on the ISO-18000 6C sticker tag technology: