It started with a press release. When the Russian company RUTOLL read our
announcement of UCODE DNA, the industry’s first secure UHF RFID tag,
they got in touch. They thought UCODE DNA might be the ideal product for their
new toll-collection system for Russian expressways, and they wanted to know
We confirmed that UCODE DNA is an RFID breakthrough, combining cryptographic
authentication with high-speed and long-distance reading, and agreed that
UCODE DNA is exceptionally well suited to vehicle registration and automated
payments on toll roads.
Improved traffic flow
RUTOLL took the next step, and
conducted a study in St. Petersburg. They were pleased with the results: UCODE
DNA is so fast, and so accurate, that cars can pass through toll-collection
points without slowing down. And, because UCODE DNA uses cryptographic
authentication to verify identity, it ensures secure transactions and protects
The company’s automatic vehicle identification (AVI) and tolling system
is now deployed along several roads including two of Russia’s most
heavily used expressways – the M1 “Belarus,” which
travels east-west and links Moscow to the Belarus capital of Minsk, and the M4
“Don,” which travels north-south and links Moscow to the many
resort towns along the Black Sea. RUTOLL is moving ahead quickly with UCODE
DNA – the company invests in R&D, explains benefits to partners,
actively offers new opportunities to tolling operators and is ready to deploy
new solutions at existing and new highways. They recommends deploying
the system that supports both active and passive RFID solutions. DSRC
transponders could be phased out in the future.
Changing to an AVI system for toll payment, based on UCODE DNA, helps keep
traffic flowing smoothly, since drivers don’t need to slow down to pass
through a toll-collection point. There are fewer delays, and that means
happier travelers. Also, drivers have the confidence of knowing that
they’ll be charged the right amount, without compromising their
personal information, since the system provides the same level of security as
a contactless bank card or an electronic ID. Passive RFID technologies provide
breakthrough for MLFF (multi-lane free flow) tolling systems. It also allows
to deploy a systems faster and at lower costs.
The best option for secure AVI
Before they found UCODE
DNA, RUTOLL had considered other approaches, but there were drawbacks with
Optical systems that use barcodes have poor reading
reliability, since weather and dirt can make the barcodes unreadable.
Barcodes are relatively easy to forge, and the scanner, which has to be
mounted quite close to passing vehicles, can be at risk of damage.
On-board units so called “OBUs” based on DSRC (Dedicated
Short Range Communication)
Systems that use active DSRC transponders are quite accurate, but the
initial investment is high, since these transponders are relatively complex
devices that tend to be more expensive, bulkier and not very comfortable.
Toll agencies often don’t want to make the extra investment in active
DSRC transponders, and passing the high cost onto drivers hasn’t been
popular, either. User experience is not great as well – OBU can fall
off, it attracts vandals, batteries have fast discharging at low
There are systems that take a picture of the
vehicle’s number plate, automatically extract the number. However,
identification of the driver (so the tolling agency can send a bill)
requires access to the database of Road Police that is not allowed in
Russia. If it would have been implemented, there is no need for advance
registration to use the system, so any vehicle with a standard-issue number
plate can drive through, but system cost can be prohibitive. The error rate
tends to be high, unless humans confirm the readings, but that increases
staffing expenses, and the cost of each transaction, with invoices and their
associated collection issues, add to the expense. Additionally, license
plates are relatively easy to duplicate and camera systems are not able to
distinguish between an original and a fake plate.
GPS location & smartphones
In Germany, a trial system
along the Autobahn used GPS location to identify travelers, but the approach
was harder and more expensive than expected. And, in the U.S. state of
Alabama, a toll-collection agency now uses a smartphone app to connect
drivers in real time to a transaction processing system, but the approach
assumes that every driver has a smartphone as well as online connection, and
that may not always be the case.
Simplicity, performance and flexibility
security and performance, UCODE DNA is much less expensive than other methods,
and presents a simpler distribution scheme, since the small, lightweight tags
are easy to deliver and quick to affix to a windshield or license plate.
Perhaps even more important, UCODE DNA is a passive technology, which means it
doesn’t use a battery. It draws power from the reader’s antenna,
so drivers don’t have to worry about replacing or recharging a battery.
Also, unlike many batteries, the tags can withstand the very low temperatures
of a Russian winter.
UCODE DNA also gives RUTOLL the option to expand into other areas beyond
tolling. The tags can be configured for add-on applications, such as access to
paid parking areas or entry into restricted areas. Tags can be updated at any
time, so drivers can add a new app whenever needed and access privileges can
be changed quickly if, for example, a driver doesn’t renew a
subscription, changes jobs or moves to a new area.
Join the conversation
Have you driven on
Russia’s M1 or M4 recently? What was your experience with the new
RUTOLL system for AVI? How else do you think UCODE DNA might improve the
driving experience? Comment below.
NXP UCODE DNA
NXP Automatic Vehicle Identification