Road Pricing – A look at what’s in store for us
January 2, 2009 1 Comment
I was reminded of my knowledge of this matter by a post I read earlier while grazing. This is from a blog I came across called Not A Sheep. Paradoxically, it’s not the only blog called Not a Sheep. Anyway…
“Ministers are pressing ahead with a £10million trial of ‘spy-in-the-sky’ road-pricing technology despite widespread public opposition.
Test runs will start soon in seven locations for the scheme which could result in charges of up to £1.30 a mile on the most congested roads.
Volunteer drivers will have units fitted to their cars, which will be tracked by satellite and will automatically deduct payments from a test account.
The trials are proceeding despite previous statements from the Government suggesting that it had abandoned the idea of national road pricing.”
This Labour government saying one thing and doing another, how unusual.
A dim flourescent greenie bulb went on over my head and then flickered out again. Some of the documents relating to this trial have fallen into my hands.
Technically, it’s a pretty primative piece of kit. There’s a plastic box that sits in a mounting tray at the junction of the windscreen and dashboard. Perhaps, oooh … I don’t know… maybe something like this:
Basically, it’s a box, powered from the cigarette lighter, which contains a GPS receiver, a memory device and a GPRS modem (and presumably a SIM card). It sends the data back to the dungeon-of-fools at regular intervals.
To activate your newly installed OBU, contact the Customer Care System agent. You will need to be in you car to activate the OBU and call the Customer Care Agent. Inform the agent that the OBU has been installed and can be activated. Please have the following information for the Customer Care System agent:
- Contract Number (this is a unique number and can be found in the bottom right hand corner of your Customer SelfCare web page)
- OBU ID number (The OBU ID number is printed on the OBU and on the delivery box. It starts with ‘C’ followed by a four-digit number)
- Registration number of the vehicle
- Your address , including post code
Please allow a few moments for the OBU to perform activation and a self test. A green OBU “OK” LED will indicate that the OBU is fully operational and working correctly.
Your OBU is now ready to start the Road Pricing Demonstrations project. If you need any further information, advice or help with the installation, removal or de-installation of your OBU, please contact a Customer Care agent.
There’s an FAQ accompanying the gubbins, which gives some insight into how this proof of concept will not only test a technology, but a process – so read and take note of what’s in store for the participants in the trial.
While reading this, bear in mind that this document originated from the Department for Transport. Now, any text in bold, imagine someone sat in Whitehall, drafting a Transport Bill for 2010, where each clause begins with the words “An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not…” followed by the bit in bold:
Can I drive even though the OBU is not working?
Yes, don’t worry. Just let us know and drive normally. We will contact you to determine the problem. If we cannot fix quickly we will organise a replacement OBU and will guide you through the replacement process. Do not call us on your mobile while driving.
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not let DfT know that the OBU is not working.
My car has been driven without the OBU installed / switched on.
Simply let us know where and how far the car has been driven, but please remember that the success of the Demonstrations Project is dependent on your full support throughout the project. If possible please take the gap into account when supplying your odometer readings by adding the appropriate distance to the miles driven outside of the project network.
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not let us know where and how far the car has been driven wihtout the OBU installed.
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not take the gap into account when supplying your odometer readings.
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not supply the odometer reading.
Getting the hang of it now…..
I am going on holiday and am not sure how this affects the project.
If you are driving your OBU registered car in England and Wales your OBU will continue to calculate charges as usual. Statements can be viewed and feedback submitted upon return from your holiday. If you are able to let us know that you are away and not using the car, we can ensure the system does not flag a potential problem. Most importantly of all, enjoy your holiday!
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not let us know that you are away and not using the car.
And hey – let’s go off piste for a moment.
[Transport Bill 2010] Special powers will be vested in the Highways Agency to investigate any potential problems that are flagged by the system.
My car is off the road at the moment (accident or broken down)
Simply contact the Customer Care Centre and let us know when the car is to be repaired and how long you expect the car to be off the road.
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not contact the customer care centre and let us know when the car is to be repaired, and how long you expect the car to be off the road.
BTW according to the FAQ, the customer care centre is open 0900-1800 Mon-Fri. That said, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am thinking of changing my car?
If you change your car, simply let the Customer Care Centre know and we will organise a new OBU and mounting dock to be sent to you. (Your existing OBU will be associated with the odometer reading on your current car and will need to be re-set before going back into the stock of available OBUs.), You then simply need to follow the installation process again and we will associate your new OBU with your new vehicle. This needs to be done as soon as you have taken delivery of your new vehicle as this will result in discrepancies of data if there is a delay. Your statements will clearly show which charge records apply to your old and new vehicle. You’ll need to send the old OBU back to the address provided at the time.
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not inform the customer care centre if the ownership of the vehicle changes.
[Transport Bill 2010] An offence will be committed if the vehicle owner does not follow the installation process immediately when acquiring a new vehicle.
And this is an intriguing note:
It would be handy of my OBU were integrated with a Sat Nav.
The integration of Sat Nav, Fleet Management and other related applications is entirely feasible and are being considered as future value add features. But with this particular project, we’re concentrating on the Road Pricing elements.
Yeah – because only the other day, on the article DK pointed us towards, was this:
I was having a smoke the other day and this maintenance engineer came round to fix some shit on the building. He was in his van and spied me walking the 14 feet from the front door to my puddle. He hopped out his van, rushed over and said: “mate, are you allowed to smoke out here?”
I looked about, realised that indeed, we were actually outside, and I said “er, yeah.”
He looked mildly relieved, whipped out a pack of Lambert and Butler (urgh) and thankfully lit up.
I reminded him that we were outside and that it was Ok, you know. He then told me this: “See my van? I’m not even allowed to smoke in that and I’m in it all day. And I can’t even pull over when I’m working, because it’s fitted with a tracker device so if I stop they’ll know and I’ll get it in the neck.”
Welcome to the future.
FWIW, the volunteers for this trial will have to wield this lump of shit on their windscreens for the next 12 months and will have to manually record every journey start and end point with odometer readings, to validate the data collected by the gadget. And the inducement being offered to these impoverished corporate drones who are being asked to volunteer? £250 of high-street vouchers.
And people are volunteering. Jesus. The only hope is enough saboteurs join the trial to arse up their data. My contact politely declined, despite the opportunity for mischief.