All motorists could be using eTags to access the freeway electronic toll collection (ETC) system as soon as next month, the National Freeway Bureau said yesterday.
The bureau last year decided to launch a free-of-charge eTag system to replace on-board units (OBU), which were priced at NT$1,199, in a bid to boost the ETC usage rate, which will allow the bureau to put in place a policy to charge motorists by distance traveled next year.
Over the past few months, the bureau has been testing the eTag system in Keelung because the city has about 8 million registered sedans, with more than 30 percent of sedan owners using the system when the trial began, which the bureau considered an ideal size for a test program.
The Keelung test program, which involved incentives to encourage people to switch to the system, was scheduled to end this month, but the bureau said it would extend the program until the eTag system is in place nationwide.
Asked when motorists in other parts of the nation could begin using eTags, the bureau said the system could be available nationwide in the middle of next month.
“When motorists in other areas can begin using eTags involves several factors, including the completion of the infrastructure and the service network surrounding the system, as well as personnel training,” said Peng Huan-ju (彭煥儒), chief of the bureau’s business division.
“Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co [FETC, the contractor administering the ETC system] is scheduled to finish building all the infrastructure in the beginning of next month and we [the bureau] still need at least one to two weeks to inspect the system,” Peng said.
Statistics from the FETC showed that during the test program, more motorists had started to use the ETC system. As of yesterday, 60 percent of registered sedan owners in Keelung had eTags installed in their vehicles.
The highest daily ETC usage rate nationwide was recorded on Jan. 3, when it reached 52.39 percent of freeway motorists.
Previously, the bureau had launched a program that allowed motorists to try the ETC system before deciding if they wanted to install an OBU in their vehicle.
The bureau said all freeway toll booths would be removed next year when it would begin charging motorists by distance traveled.
Instead, a radio-frequency identification system will detect the serial numbers on eTags and calculate how many kilometers freeway users have driven.
“We hope that all the freeway users install eTags because it will be really inconvenient for them if they don’t as the payment does not automatically come out of your eTag account. However, we can only force people to put the e-Tags in their cars when the ETC usage rate exceeds 80 percent,” Peng said.