RFID based E-toll system introduced on Pakistan Motorways

Posted on November 20, 2007
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Economy & Development
41 Comments
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Owais Mughal

Pakistan now joins the list of growing countries where RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) based electronic toll collection is in use. For now it has been introduced on Peshawar – Islamabad M1 and Islamabad – Lahore M2 Motorways. This technology allows the vehicles to pass through toll booths without stopping and toll amount is automatically deducted from the money account on record.
Here is how the system works. An RFID tag (transponder) is now available free-of-cost to motorists using Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar toll plazas. This tag is attached to a car’s wind shield.
News appearing to this effect in Dawn of November 7, 2007 says:

“Those who want to secure the RFID tag will be required to submit full particulars about their person, details of bank account and some other information. The NHA (National Highway Authority) staff posted at the plazas for selling of the tag will register all such details in their system.”


On toll plazas, RFID Readers with antennas have been installed. When a vehicle approaches a toll plaza, the RFID Reader Antenna communicates wirelessly with the RFID tag located in the vehicle wind shield. At highway speeds (in excess of 100 kmph), the system identifies the car and charges the correct amount of toll to the bank account on record. The system which is installed in Pakistan, a vehicle will still have to stop at a booth but no human transaction between the vehicle occupants and toll booth operator is needed. I believe it is definitely a step in positive direction. It will reduce waiting lines at toll booths and save fuel.
Following is another excerpt from the original news that appears in Dawn of November 7, 2007.

“A very interesting feature of the new system is that the required amount would be electronically deducted from the bank account of the motorist. The e-toll will also have a fast tracking system installed which will detect wrong information givers. As such, in case there is no amount in the account of the person concerned the NHA electronic system will recognize it and signal stop by flashing the red light and the bar would not be lifted.”

It appears in the news that after initial deployment at Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar toll plazas, the system will be extended to all toll plazas located on the motorways M1, M2 and M3.
The electronic toll system in Pakistan has been introduced by NHA (National Highway Authority) in collaboration with NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority).

Update: July 7, 2008:

This news update appears on July 7, 2008 in Jang. It shows 10210 vehicles have so far registered for the RFID tagged E-toll system on Pakistan Motorway Network.

References:
1. HyPass of Pakistan
2. National Highway Authority
3. National Database and Registration Authority
4. Title photo is from Wikipedia.com

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41 responses to “RFID based E-toll system introduced on Pakistan Motorways”

  1. binary-zero says:

    Good to see this finally. Perhaps they should add credit card to their options as well, cz. i wonder how they are going to manage the availability of funds in the bank account.

  2. Cubano says:

    There are many security and privacy issues regarding RFID tags. RFID tags can used to gather sensitive data about individuals without their knowledge. They can also be used to obtain the identity of individuals if they are used in conjunction with credit/debit cards and other personal details. Products with RFID tags can be tracked therefore they pose a risk to individual privacy and security. Perhaps the authorities can illicitly track individuals’ whereabouts as their cars pass through toll booths. I think that this technology can be easily used for surveillance purposes in a country like Pakistan with a military government and a lack of civil liberties due to the state of emergency. Political dissidents could be an easy target of illicit tracking

  3. Shaji says:

    Since I worked on this project in its infancy, I know that most of the time we were worried about getting it to work rather than iron out possible hack-safe measures. The only thing we did was to ensure that the data on the RFID is encrypted, which is nothing more than maybe a few ID numbers.

    Which reminds me of the funny time when we demoed the Proof of Concept to Mush. The system wasn’t working because the speed with which the scanner reads the tag limits the car to speeds below 20kmph. And since nobody could keep the car driving in a limited space to below 20 without looking up from the speedometer as well as avoiding hitting Mush, we had to fake the entry into the system as well as turn on the signal to indicate successful testing.

    Nevertheless, these systems are here to stay and I think its high time we stopped worrying about privacy and such issues There is no way to prevent someone in power to misuse any system… just look at Mush.

  4. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ traffic hazardous,

    the vue of the Driver is seriously hindered 1/4 of
    the wind screen is blocked !!!

    the gadget-luxury only few thousands Pakistani
    can afford,
    and the job loss ? toll collector’s !! think before !

    Thanks to job curtailing policy

  5. While in other news says:

    Rest of 150 million Pakistanis are suffering from basic needs like, water, electric, schools, hospitals, etc…..Govt is catering to needs of .0001 of Pakistanis with RFID crap.

  6. cubano says:

    I guess that since there’s no way to prevent someone is power to misuse any system, we should give me more tools and make it easier for them to abuse their powers. Btw, laws can be introduced to limit government’s powers but is obviously only possible in democratic societies with checks and balances in place…

  7. I must say technology is good.

  8. Shaji says:

    @Rafay: The tag in the photo is an active device, i.e. transmits signals and as far as I know, we were using Passive RFID tags which would be tiny compared to the tag in the picture.

  9. Khurram says:

    @Rafay,

    If you look closely at the picture, the RFID device itself is about a third of the size of the rear-view mirror. If placed behind the mirror (as it is in the picture), it does not hinder the driver’s view any more than the rear-view mirror does.

    The bigger thing seems to be a card with some ayaat or dua’s on it.

  10. Khurram says:

    @Rafay,

    As to your second point (about collectors losing their jobs), think about all the jobs created for people working on this technology. Apparently, Shaji (who posted a comment here) was one of them.

    If that is not a convincing argument then I have this story for you: A few years ago a Chinese official showed a visiting American economist a dam being built by workers using shovels.

  11. Canadian says:

    Can someone tell me who is the supplier of the RFD readers and transponders?

    Thank you

  12. John Doe says:

    The ones we use here in Canada also ask the driver to limit the speed tp 25k, however people have been crossing at 60 with out any problem. If you are more then 60K , then chances are you would hit the soft bar that opens up as an indication to allow you the way.

    The screen is not limited. its very small. Perhaps the stikcer which should not have been there is taking more space.

  13. Tina says:

    How much clean drinking water could have been provided to how many people using the money spent on this nonsense?

    Just one example. You can think of many more if you think about it. A sophisticated system like this being put into place for wealthy Mercedes drivers in a country as poor as Pakistan is almost beyond irony.

    I bet it was paid for with govt. funds, too.

    Where do the donkey cart drivers put their tags?

    Clearly, two very different worlds existing side by side. It cannot go on peaceably forever.

  14. Nayab Khan says:

    Dude ‘While in other news’, 150 million will only get water and other things if we work on such projects. May be you also have a point of view that Pakistan invested more on kahuta laborataries then on laboratories in schools
    This is an advancments in the area of technology and development in Pakistan. Means we have learned and have experience in this technology which can lead to other developments to help 160 Million of pakistanis. And If toolplaza servicemen will loose their jobs then there will be many others who will get jobs to maintain this system and develope such applications. I believe they will still be there, may be one lane will have this system as most people like me will never use tagging.

    The real security threat in this is not Mush or other leaders as they will not know how to fetch information out of the system, How many of you know how to run SQL Queries? First threat will be from the Database Administrator, then the other IT Staff who will be looking after the system or those who have developed it. If someone wants personal data from it they will have to compromise these people.
    Why blame leaders?, Blame the system please!, unless we have IT Auditing for projects and Data protection Laws introduced, threats will remain.
    Besides it is important to implement such projects and even if it fails the experience will help us make better systems. It will not benefit 16Million from day one but it will make difference in later years.

  15. Tina says:

    Nayab believes in the trickle down effect.

    Okay, somebody here should know it–how many people are employed by this great system? But that’s really only a side issue….

    We know that the employees will be few and they will all be from the educated abroad classes anyway. Hard to see how the “other” 160 million are going to get anything.

    Of course I am in favor of use of technology even in poor countries, but look–Karachi has more than 15 million people and a sewer system that can handle 3 million. But who cares if fishermen lose their income when the fish die/are banned by the European Union and who cares if kids in slums die of gastroenteritis—those are the “other” Pakistanis…

    The upper classes don’t have to stop their cars on toll roads and they have a big sign that says “Welcome to Muree” and a beautiful new highway that looks like it was lifted right from the Autobahn…

    That’s important!

  16. Shaji says:

    @Canadian:

    The ones we tested were supplied by a Mexican company through their reps in Pakistan at about 20 cents (USD) per tag. Don’t know whether bureaucracy has kicked in in or not, but if they still went with these then the consumer cost would not be much.

    @Nayab:

    The price for the electronic age and interconnectivity is that no piece of information is isolated. Your ID info is linked to your phone records and to your bank accounts. The checks and balances in between allow one-way communication restricted and hardwired into the system, though they can still be breached.

    Blaming a system won’t do much. Educating people on abuse of power might help.

  17. kayen says:

    That is the good technology which is introduce in pk.

  18. Owais Mughal says:

    @Shaji

    Never heard of Mexican suppliers of RFID equipment. The 20-cent pricing for passive tags sounds about right. I don’t think anybody’s making any money at that price. Best passive tags in US also run around the same price range.

    To get a valid read, a speed of 20 kmph is too slow. Something must be very wrong. The Mexican suppliers should be contacted. Most likely it is the antenna beam which is not allowing long enough dwell time to vehicles. A linearly polarized reader antenna may help. Usually 13 MHz frequency is used for toll system RFIDs as it is proved to be the best in this application. I don’t know at what frequency the Mexican equipement is working?

    For those who are opposing the project, I want to comment that RFID is the future. Pakistan is already a late arrival. It is not for rich people only. The tag price is as low as a commodity price. just few cents. Even in Pakistan, it is being given for FREE.

    Motorways are the backbone of a country’s economy. If freight can move from Karachi to Peshawar in 18 hours then everyone benefits. rich and poor both. Faster communication infrastructure is the basis for economic development.

    For the commentor who said the tag is too big; the photo in this article is from wikipedia and it is not the Pakistani system tag. The tag being used in Pak is passive and must be much smaller in size. it won’t block a driver’s view.

  19. Eidee Man says:

    Tina, I hope you’re not taking your donkey up on a trek to Murree.

  20. Shaji says:

    @Owais: The people we talked to were certainly Mexican, maybe they have a US supplier.

    Another RFID implementation is the Driving License which has not yet been implemented because of Police incompetency and their insistence on using an archaic system of issuing Licenses. The PVC Magnetic strip cards they use don’t carry any data and ups the cost of driving license quite a bit. Market price for plain PVC is about RS 20 compared to RS 50 for ones with magnetic strips.

    A cheaper alternative is one we developed in-house of merging two Teslin (material used in ID cards) sheets which proves to be much cheaper, inks don’t wear off unlike the Islamabad Licences, and allows no extra setup costs as we already have printing facilities. The unit cost for a PVC printer was about RS 850,000.

  21. cubano says:

    For the record, I agree that RFID is the future but security and privacy are valid concerns as well. Technology should be embraced but it shouldn’t come at the cost of personal privacy.

  22. Qandeel says:

    Lol, no offence to anyone, but I can’t stop laughing at what Eidee Man said.

  23. Tina says:

    I do in fact own a donkey…and she appreciates the cool weather as much as anybody else would….. :)

  24. Sounds interesting, but y just the big highway, if certain cabbies and bus drivers volunteer to use RFID tags on their vehicles via a privacy preserving scheme (there r some), then we can get good data about our traffic and that can be used to built a better infrastructure.

    Ya but asking NADRA to hook up the system, especially when tehy have hooked up my passport and my nic. and i think the passports already have RFIDs in them…

    spooky!

  25. Nayab Khan says:

    @Tina
    Yes, this system will not help 160Millions or Karachi’s sewage system. But if we want to implement sewage control system or stock management system for the agricultural market on Government administrative level (which can be very helpfull to stop smuggling and price hikes) , how are we going to develope it?, OH may be you suggest we contract out to indian companies or continue doing paper work.

    I suggest NADRA should introduce hack proof property management system.

  26. what kind of security issues are associated with RFID? if it’s all about data transmitting then it could be issue of other mode of transmission as well?

    BTW, what are alternatives other than RFID? and what about Bluetooth devices?

  27. Tina says:

    Nayab, of course there are aspects of these high tech systems that have applications that would benefit all Pakistanis, but we both know this is not a priority and they will never be used for those good purposes as long as current situation is in place. And that’s what I’m speaking out against.

    We can see who gets the money and how it gets spent. How you can defend this is beyond my understanding. There are very few more elitist societies on this planet than Pakistan. One of them happens to be Angola, which–surreally–has the highest foreign sales of Mercedes Benz automobiles in the world. These are the oil millioniares, driving by children maimed by land mines as they beg in the road. Not very good company to be in when you think about it…

    You could argue that improving the technology on the oil rigs would somehow benefit all Angolans, and perhaps sound quite rational making such a theoretical argument. Yet, increased oil revenue clearly does nothing in practice except purchase more Mercedes autos–and dare I say it–the people who drive them will want lovely roads to drive them on. They may even put in an automated toll system for their Mercedes (ahem). Since the oil millionaires are also the government, we can see how fast life is going to improve for the beggars and victims of war (not at all). There is very little short of a revolution that will change this. The precise same scenario is unfolding in Chad as we speak.

    Trickle down economics has been discredited. This is why.

  28. Owais Mughal says:

    @Cubano
    I agree there is a security issue concern with RFIDs. But I believe it is no worse than any other computer related technology out there.

    @Adnan

    bluetooth is not used b/c of its high cost of transmitter/sensor. RFID passive tags are few cents a piece.

  29. A/C to following links, the technology is expensive. Maybe it’s old or I am missing something?

    tinyurl.com/yoyao9
    tinyurl.com/24s7o4

  30. Slightly off topic but since we are talking about use of technology to make things better and easier, I would like to say further about use of bluetooth for the benefit of common man. Unlike others, I believe mobile technology is the future rather RFID, specially for layman because bluetooth is available in ordinary mobiles. For instance, use of bluetooth technology for shopping purpose like a Bluetooth-web application for a market like “Tariq Road”. Users can set preferences in their mobile can interact with PCs in different shops which can transmit signals via bluetooth device which has range around 10 meters. So if I have set preferences of jeans of cost no more than PKR.700, i could receive alerts about all shops of Tariq roads which have jeans of my rang. Since i will be roaming around, whichever shop meets the criteria,it will sent notice to me. Thus it could save my lots of time.

    This is just one example while there are many other possibilities.

    The main issue is, would such application be appreciated? how can you convinced target audience like Shopkeeper or Buyer?

  31. cubano says:

    @Owais Mughal
    I agree with that. The only point or opinion that I was offering was that this technology can be easily used to track the movement of cars and potentially the individuals in the cars. This can be exploited even more so in Pakistan where the authorities can’t be held accountable for their actions due to the authoritative nature of the government . Therefore I thought that it was a little scary. However, I am not sure if that really matters in a country without checks and balances and to ensure accountability of any kind. Hundreds of thousands of people go missing and no one is held accountable so I guess illicit tracking and surveillance is the least of their worries.

    RFID is just another tool that may indirectly facilitate surveillance thought more active and direct surveillance is already happening with CCTV, credit card/debit card usage, embedded devices, Internet, facial recognition, and various other technologies. It could be used to take a further step towards an Orwellian society.

  32. Tina says:

    The greatest research lab currently investigating how technology can be used to administer a police state is Iraq under the U.S. The Iraqis are the guinea pigs for all these tracking and control measures, including retinal scans at checkpoints, etc.

    I have no idea if the current RFID will be used as a tool of repression, but, yes, the U.S. will be bringing the dictatorships of its choice the results of all their successful research soon. Don’t think they won’t.

    The Big Game is a bigger game than even the most wild eyed conspiracy theorists can imagine.

  33. Owais Mughal says:

    Cubano, agreed with your last comment. Yes the movement of tagged items can be tracked.

    Adnan, the model you have described is doable with bluetooth, especially with the installed base of mobile phones. To market and to make sure you are lured into buying something, the messages can be personalized .e.g. once the ID of bluetooth is detected the jeans can be marketed with a personalize message like; “pyaray janab xyz, sirf aap ke liyay 700 rs” etc etc :) Just an example. but you are right, the bluetooth model is doable in market.

    For e-toll however, i would still prefer RFID b/c of its low cost.

  34. AOA TO ALL,
    Well this RFID TAG system is very good but i think it will take time to grow in pakistan. In many coutries this system is runing successfully but other cash-only booths are also run in parallel. Next I want to discuss something about NADRA. I think there are many supportors of NADRA in current government because
    almost 8 months have passed but NADRA is still runing RFID booths on experimental basis. Many times they have given demo but they fail all the time. I dont know why there is no RFID expert in NADRA. Anyways may God help them. Now as the last word, I’d like to say that this system will take anywhere between 5 to 10 years to completely grow on motorways of pakistan.
    Thankyou
    Asim sherwany

  35. Owais Mughal says:

    An Urdu news update of July 7, 2008 is added towards the end of the post (see above). It announces that 10210 vehicles have been so far registered with RFID tagged E-Toll System on Pakistan Motorway Network

  36. Khwaja says:

    Good News e-toll vehicles
    There are five e-toll plazas working at motorway(Faisalabad,Lahore,Peshawar,Islamabad,Kala Shah Kaku).
    Five more remote enrollment stations will be installed at nearest point of e-toll plazas.

  37. syed usman says:

    words forward by Mr. Asim, with dua respect dear its take only 4 months bcs its take start since 4th april 2008.i think that it take a year more for completion on all motorways.

  38. Muhammad Fakhar ul islaam says:

    I appriciate this system installed on the M.1 M2 & M3 with the cooperation of N.H.A & NADRA to facilitate the People to save their precious time. And I suggest that the fine imposed or panalities on mistakes through driving should also be imposed or deducted through the FRID system to save the time.

  39. ahmed says:

    it is good to hear that 7 stations are active for e toll system .keep it up

  40. Abdul Hye says:

    AOA to ALL
    It is an increment in the progress of Technology of our country and inshallah due to increasing of e Tag Vehicles this system will be at all e toll plazas in future in Pakistan.

  41. ali says:

    han an ka to dawa hy k etag main corruption nhe hote but an k toll operators ny an k as daway ko khak main mla dya hey. Jtne corruption etag LHR aur KSK aur FSD main hote hy atne corruption to FWO waly b nhe krty. ary koi vechile etag wale lane main aa jye card ly kr to foran he card pakar kr jeb main dal letay hian. aur jo vechiles pora pora cash dain an ko b add nhe krty blkay cancel kr dty hain all truck kha jatay hain. aur guards ko kah kr without tags gariyan enter krwaty hain wo card aur pesa an ke jeb main. ye NADRA waly aa gye hain ab khanay phly FWO waly khatay thay. an k guards to FWO k operators aur guards sy pasy b pakarty hain. aur pora motor way ghom aur an ko jhot boll do jo kareeb tareen station hey ye kahen gy ok aur jawo ge mojan he mojan…. hahahahah mjy apne vechile pr tag laga kr bht maza aya na he challan update hota hy aur na he lamba toll pay krna parta hy. agr ye log corruption kr skty hain to main kyan nhe. jasy ko tesa he sahe.

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