E-ZPass Group not expecting others to join for national IOP, compiling list of protocols, meeting MPR manufacturers
By Peter Samuel
2012-10-04: E-ZPass leaders today denied they expect other toll blocs around the country to join E-ZPass as part of the implementation of national interoperability (IOP) although they say they expect some new members. PJ Wilkins executive director was asked this question directly in an hour long internet hookup - a "Webinar" - organized by IBTTA and the E-ZPass Group (EZPG) Thursday.
"Don't let's reinvent the wheel" following expositions about the EZPG being the largest and most successful of the electronic toll blocs have led to this interpretation of EZPG as demanding join-us as the only route to national IOP. But Wilkins said 'Not so.' How national interoperability would be achieved was a matter for discussion.
The EZPG was taking North Carolina Turnpike as an Affiliate member, Wilkins noted. It will be the first toller to participate fully in EZPG interoperability with non-standard (TransCore) equipment.
First affilate E-ZPasser soon
NC should be operating as part of E-ZPass before the end of the year. But there were other ways of achieving interoperability that could come out of discussion with the various toll technology blocs (our term, not Wilkins.)
Other E-ZPass Group (EZPG) presenters today were Stan Ciszewski head of electronic toll collection (ETC) planning at the New Jersey Turnpike who discussed business arrangements within the EZPG and Charles Fausti, manager E-ZPass Port Authority New York New Jersey whose focus was the EZPG's approach to testing of in-lane systems.
Wilkins' opening theme was that the difficulties of national interoperability (NIOP) shouldn't be exaggerated since the industry already has very successful models of interoperability working and he cited the four electronic toll blocs in which separate tollers often with different business rules handle transactions for one another's customers - the EZPG, Florida, Texas and California.
"Interoperability is not new. It shouldn't be regarded as too daunting. It's something we already do and very successfully. We need to build on those."
Skeptical about license plate reads for tolling
The EZPG is into detailed discussions about IOP with Florida, Wilkins said, and plans to begin similar discussions with Texas and California. In all cases the objective is to understand one another's arrangements and explore how interoperability can be advanced.
The three EZPG presenters were firm on NIOP as being based on transponder-reader transactions with only a minor role for video tolling or license plate reads and motor registry lookup.
Only transponder reads can offer the needed accuracy, they said, and the difficulty of dealing with the same alphanumeric on an array of different license plate types makes image based tolling too uncertain.
In this they seem at odds with the Alliance for Toll Interoperability (ATI) which has based its hubs exercise around imaging and motor registry lookup.
The EZPG is compiling a list of transponder-reader protocols with a view to seeing what is needed and possible in multi protocol readers (MPRs). Protocols being looked at for inclusion include:
- EZPG IAG (13 northeast, mid-Atlantic, midwest states)
- 6B (TX, FL, OK, NC)
- 6C (CO, WA, UT, LA, GA, Amb Br)
- Allegro/ATA (FL, TX)
- Title 21 (CA)
- ASTMv6 (truckers, 407ETR)
Fausti was asked about 5.9GHz a USDOT favorite and said it might have a future in the longterm if safety applications see it being adopted by manufacturers or mandated. But that was all too uncertain and too far off, he suggested, to be useful in meeting the 4-year goal of national interoperability (NIOP) under the federal MAP21 mandate.
Discussions with manufactures on MPRs
Wilkins said the E-ZPass group is starting discussions with manufacturers of multi protocol readers (MPRs) to understand their capabilities and limitations.
That understanding it seems will in combination with a list of needed protocols to be supported lead to an EZPG plan for specifying and testing different multi protocol readers. These, apparently, would be the E-ZPass Group's technical spec for national interoperability - or at least a central negotiating point with the other three toll blocs (TX, FL, CA.) Plus the 6C users group (WA, UT, LA, GA, CO, Amb Br) is a fifth 'mini-bloc' (6CUG.)
Wilkins indicated that again the EZPG is not in entirely new territory in dealing with different equipment. He said both Kapsch and TransCore and demonstrated during the group's new procurement an ability to meet the group's performance standards with different readers.
Readers are now available from Kapsch, TransCore and 3M/Sirit which can read multiple protocols. That should mean that a traffic stream with multiple transponders for example E-ZPass, SunPass (FL 6B), Fastrak (CA T21), EXpress Toll (CO, 6C), TollTag (TX, 6B), Good to Go (WA 6C) could be read.
The complication is that the more protocols the reader is set up to read the shorter the time slot that can be provided for each protocol within the limited time a vehicle traveling at 70mph is within range. The question then becomes whether and how much average read rates, correct lane assignment and other performance characteristics are degraded by the multiplication of protocols that time must be provided for on each vehicle pass.
The 6C-centric approach
A different approach would be to adopt one cheap tag protocol (6C is the obvious candidate at giveaway prices of about a dollar a tag) to be issued nationwide (and Canada and Mexico) to those motorists wanting interoperability. Under this 6C-centric approach the toller's multi protocol reader would usually be set to read just two protocols - in E-ZPassland this would be EZPass plus 6C, in Texas or Florida the established 6B plus 6C, in California the existing Title 21 plus 6C etc.
Texas and Florida with 6B also have some legacy Allegro and ATA protocol hard cased backscatter transponders still in use and presently use dual protocol readers.
Under this scheme they'd go to tri-protocol readers - ATA/Allegro, 6B plus 6C.
This alternative was not discussed at today's event though one participant asked if the EZPG had assessed 6C. The sorry fact is the EZPG's procurement process was so ponderously slow the candidate technologies were already chosen before 6C was devised and published as a standard RFID protocol.
The EZPG has established a page on its website providing detailed documents on:
- operating/reciprocity agreements
- specifications for files
- policy documents
- test plans
presentations and questions and answers:
Pat Jones of IBTTA who moderated said some 370 people were participating in the internet event which provided excellent voice-over, powerpoint slides and the opportunity for typed questions.
NAMING: The E-ZPass Group is the current preferred name for what was previously the E-ZPass Inter Agency Group or IAG. Both refer to the same organization by which the 24 tollers in some 13 states govern themselves and conduct joint operations. The EZPG or IAG has an office in Newark DE. The group grew from seven toll agencies in three states which got together 19 years ago (1993) to plan interoperability in NY, NJ and PA. The first E-ZPass tolls were collected in 1995.
see followup to this report, subtitled SECOND THOUGHTS: