Two years ago, it was reported that there were plans to implement a gateless gantry toll system for electronic toll collection (ETC) starting from 2018, and this was set to be based along Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) lines.

At that point, the RFID-based system was briefly sighted undergoing trials, in May 2015 on a PLUS SmartTag lane at the Batu Tiga toll plaza, and it was also reported that the system had quietly been undergoing testing at the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (AKLEH), Elite Expressway and New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) over an extended period.

A multi-lane free-flow RFID gateless gantry was then spotted at Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) later that year, presumably also running field trials.

Now, the digital payment system is finally set for deployment, starting from next year. According to a Sin Chew Daily report, the RFID-based ETC system began a pilot test programme yesterday, ahead of public operations commencing on January 28, 2018.

The pilot programme will involve only selected vehicles – presently, police vehicles are trialling the system, which will share a SmartTag-based lane at eight toll plazas in the Klang Valley, but the report adds that fire department vehicles and ambulances will soon have access.

Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) director-general Datuk Ismail Md Salleh said that the RFID tag will be more advanced than the existing ETC system, and that it will work just like a Touch ‘n Go card, where the charge is debited from the motorist’s pre-load just like Touch ‘n Go.

He added that the system – similar in scope to Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) – will be ready for public use by motorists on January 28 next year, though implementation will be carried out in stages. It is expected that RFID tag will eventually take over from Touch ‘n Go for toll collection in the future, though that will likely take some time.

Radio frequency identification works in a manner similar to barcode scanning. The tag is ‘read’ by an overhead scanner through electromagnetic waves with a frequency of between 850 and 950 MHz, and scanning can reach ranges of over 27 metres, with a 10 millisecond response time. Operation-wise, RFID tag will be superior in both amplitude and consistency compared to the current system.

It wasn’t reported which tech partners will be providing the RFID system for series use. The system on the 2015 test gantry at TPM listed Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Quatriz, so it could well be these companies. In October 2013, MHI announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Touch’n Go and Quatriz System to develop intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in the country.