The Road to Tomorrow is Paid By Electronic Tolls

The Road of Tomorrow are Paid by Electronic Tolls

Building hi-tech toll roads, congestion-based pricing, and smartphone apps help us to reallocate current capacity. At the end of the day, we have to figure out a new way to move people and cargo across great distances.

t’s a Friday night, the sunset in on the horizon, you’re getting out late from work, and you have the need to get home quickly. After taking a few side roads and cut through a few neighborhoods: you get to the part of the commute that you hate, the Interstate Highway system. Now, on a good day, the Interstate can reduce the amount of time traveling from place to place. But, during the morning and evening rush hours, it’s a parking lot. Since the beginning of the Eisenhower Interstate system, trying to move people and cargo at incredible speeds throughout a large country, in a reasonable time. The cars have sure gotten faster, and there have been numerous safety improvements in the road. In the end, traffic is traffic, and thousands of people are stuck in it every year. Today we are talking about the latest technologies in the war on traffic: The newest iteration of these technologies are Electric Tolling Roads (ETC), HOV/HOT, Variable Tolling Lanes, and Smartphone apps.

Electric Tolling Roads (ETC)

Imagine, you’re heading down the road, top down, wind blowing through your hair, and you know the road ahead is a toll road. Most toll roads have a toll booth. A toll booth is an area which you get a card or exchange cash for the right to move on the road. But, with ETC roads, it is slightly different. There is a small device located on your front visor or taped to the windshield of your car, when it interacts with an RFID signal, charges your account the price of the toll. By driving through the toll, it will record (via video) your license plate and the time of entry. No stopping, no toll booths, just a transponder on your windshield ensuring you paid to toll.

High Occupancy Vehicle / High Occupancy Tool (HOV/HOT)

High Occupancy Vehicle / High Occupancy Tool (HOV/HOT) lanes either use existing lanes (or new lanes) to reshuffle road capacity. Some HOV lanes are free if you have more than two or three people in the car. Th more people you have in the car, the faster you have an opportunity to move on the highway. On other roads, in order to get on it, you need two or people in the car as the entire road is made for HOV. Now, some of the HOV roads are available for single drivers, but paying a toll, using the transponder technology talked about in the ETC section.

Variable Tolling Lanes

Just like we talked about above, HOV/HOT lanes reshuffle the available capacity on the highway. Instead of simply dedicating lanes for high-occupancy twenty-four hours a day, tolls would increase during hours in which traffic was at its highest. These are Variable Tolling Lanes. This is also known as congestion pricing. According to the Department of Transportation, there are four types of Tolling lanes:

  • “Variably priced lanes, involving variable tolls on separated lanes within a highway, such as Express Toll Lanes or HOT Lanes, i.e. High Occupancy Toll lanes
  • Variable tolls on entire roadways — both on toll roads and bridges, as well as on existing toll-free facilities during rush hours
  • Cordon charges — either variable or fixed charges to drive within or into a congested area within a city
  • Area-wide charges — per-mile charges on all roads within an area that may vary by level of congestion”(1)

Smartphone Apps

The table below shows the different categories of apps: Mobility, Vehicle Connectivity, Smart Parking Apps, and Courier Network Services:

Mobility -Business-to-Consumer Sharing Apps |Apps that sell the use of shared transportation vehicles from a business to an individual consumer, including one-way and roundtrip trip carsharing (e.g., Zipcar).

Mobility - Mobility Tracker Apps | Apps that track the speed, heading, and elapsed travel time of a traveler. These apps often include both wayfinding and fitness functions that are colored by metrics, such as caloric consumption while walking (e.g., GPS Tracker Pro).

Mobility — Peer-to-Peer Sharing Apps | Apps that enable private owners of transportation vehicles to share them peer-to-peer, generally for a fee (e.g., Spinlister).

Mobility — Public Transit Apps | Apps that enable the user to search public transit routes, schedules, near-term arrival predictions, and connections. These apps may also include a ticketing feature, thereby providing the traveler with easier booking and payment for public transit services (e.g., Washington, DC’s Metrorail and Metrobus).

Mobility — Real-Time Information Apps | Apps that display real-time travel information across multiple modes including current traffic data, public transit wait times, and bikesharing and parking availability (e.g., Snarl).

Mobility — Ridesourcing Apps | Apps that provide a platform for sourcing rides. This category is expansive in its definition so as to include “ridesplitting” services in which fares and rides are split among multiple strangers who are traveling in the same direction (e.g., UberPOOL and Lyft Line). MobilityTaxi e-Hail AppsApps that supplement street hails by allowing location-aware, on-demand hailing of regulated city taxicabs (e.g., Flywheel). MobilityTrip Aggregator AppsAre apps that route users by considering multiple modes of transportation and providing the user with travel times, connection information, and distance and trip cost (e.g., Transit App).

Vehicle Connectivity Apps | OnStar is a vehicle connectivity app by the General Motors group that provides subscription-based communications, in-vehicle security, hands-free calling, turn-by-turn navigation, and remote diagnostics systems. It provides emergency services like “Automatic Crash Response,” “Crisis Assist,” and “Roadside Assistance.” Additionally, it has sophisticated security features, such as “Stolen Vehicle Assistance,”including “Remote Ignition Block” and “Stolen Vehicle Slowdown.” Other apps in this space include: Lexus Enform App Suite, M-B mbrace, and My BMW Remote.

Smart Parking Apps | The ParkWhiz app is an example of an e-parking app that allows drivers to search for available parking, view pricing, and make reservations at over 2,000 parking lots across the United States. Additionally, ParkWhiz customers are offered a discount for booking parking in advance. Other apps in this space include Best Parking, ParkMe, and SpotHero.

Courier Network Services (CNS) | AppsRoadie is an example of a cargo delivery app permitting peer-to-peer delivery. Similar to ridesourcing, Roadie offers on-demand, real-time for-hire cargo services. The app uses an online platform to connect shippers with independent delivery drivers using their personal vehicles for compensation. As of March 2015, Roadie was available in all 50 states (Roadie, 2015). Other apps in this space include DoorDash, Postmates, Shipbird, and Shyp.


Building hi-tech toll roads, congestion-based pricing, and smartphone apps help us to reallocate current capacity. At the end of the day, we have to figure out a new way to move people and cargo across great distances. Until that day occurs, we have to fit our current traffic problems in our existing infrastructure. Anyone who can answer that question is up for a Nobel prize!Thank you for reading this blog! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below. (1)


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Nick Stockton

Life is short. This blog is shorter. You could have spent your time reading all sorts or articles, but I am glad you are reading mine.