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Tackling speed enforcement with electronic vehicle recognition

First publishedin ITS International
May June 2012
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Thailand Roads

An innovative electronic vehicle registration system is being rolled out across Bangkok in Thailand, with road safety and speed enforcement the principal aims

Equipment contracts and partnerships relating to a system of electronic vehicle registration (EVR) have been forming in Bangkok over the past couple of years. EVR can be applied to tackle a broad range of problems for transport authorities, including tax evasion, crime and insurance fraud. For Thailand’s Department of Land Transport (DLT), its EVR system – now operational throughout much of Bangkok – is focused on enforcement of speed limits for improving road safety. That does not make DLT’s project any less innovative.

The Bangkok EVR is based on a system of RFID (radio frequency identification) communication between vehicles and infrastructure, backed up by cameras for visual identification. Networks of RFID tag readers and both CCTV and automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) cameras are now in place in Bangkok. Since 1 April this year it has been mandatory for all buses and passenger vans in Thailand to be tagged with RFID for speed detection.

“Over the past two and a half years we have gone from a standing start to roll out of 450 RFID reader sites all with CCTV and ALPR cameras throughout Bangkok,” says Mikoh Corporation managing director Richard Sealy. “It’s an average speed detection system so we read the tag from point to point. So far it has proven very successful, having a positive impact on the number of road deaths among buses and passenger vans during the Songkran Festival, which is a time of year when a lot of fatalities occur in Thailand.”

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Richard Sealy Mikoh managing director
Mikoh managing director Richard Sealy is also a director of Kollakorn, the company contracted to install and operate the Bangkok EVR system
As MD of Mikoh, Sealy is a director of Kollakorn, the company contracted to install and operate the Bangkok EVR system. Kollakorn is 25% owned by Mikoh and 75% by Mikoh’s Thai partner Somapar, which is carrying out the majority of the EVR operations in Bangkok. “We supply the RFID tags to Somapar with tamper detection technology, which is our specialty and crucial for the success of the system overall.

Tamper detection is pretty important for EVR as it means you cannot move ID tags from one vehicle type to another. If you try, it ceases to function and the system registers an offence or violation.”

The RFID tags are fixed to headlights because around 60% of all vehicles in Thailand are motorcycles and some tinted windscreens can cause interference with signals. Installation of the EVR equipment got under way early in 2010. “The time frame we have brought the system into being is short, given that what we are talking about is electronic vehicle registration; having to change all the legislation to allow for vehicle registration to occur electronically, or using an electronic tag. That is a lot to achieve in 30 months,” Sealy says.

Once sufficient equipment had been installed, a pilot project was initiated in 2011, tagging 1000 public sector passenger mini vans and monitoring their speeds on Bangkok’s Don Muang Tollway. Now the intention is to extend the EVR to cover all vehicles throughout Thailand.

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A pilot project
A pilot project was initiated in 2011, tagging 1000 public sector passenger mini vans and monitoring their speeds on Bangkok's Don Muang Tollway
“The government has allowed itself the option of being able to add categories to the compulsory application of tags. We started off with just the passenger vans. Now buses have been included and they are talking about extending the system to a 300km radius of Bangkok. So they are moving pretty fast, because they have seen positive results from the tag system, giving the government more confidence,” Sealy says.

Success comes partly from the robustness of the system installed. According to Sealy, the cameras are located primarily to provide the visual identification needed for prosecution. The Bangkok EVR uses RFID and cameras for speed enforcement. “We can do it both ways. We can time vehicles with the cameras between both points, which means  a vehicle does not have to be fixed with a tag to be caught speeding, but the RFID system is more reliable for speed detection,” Sealy says. “We get a 98.8% read rate with RFID, whereas the cameras might be up to 70%.”

Such reliability has grabbed the attention of several governments and transport agencies where registration fraud or vehicle tax evasion is high. “I think every country will have its own drivers for the system,” Sealy says. “For instance, in Vietnam where we are working, they register a car once when the first owner buys it. They don’t have any road tax so after that initial registration they cannot know who subsequently might own it. So that’s a driver to tag every vehicle. In Malaysia, the driver is completely different again.

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Bangkok EVR
The Bangkok EVR uses RFID and cameras for speed enforcement
“In the case of Thailand, we originally came at it through the EVR route based on the savings that could be made through catching the fraudsters. That was and still is a strong incentive, but it was the carnage on Bangkok’s roads that got the passions of the government and politicians going and drove this project forward.”

According to Thai government accident statistics, primary causes or influences on road accidents and deaths in the country come from the dangerous mix of motorcyclists and larger vehicles, alcohol impaired driving and excessive speed. Public vehicles, particularly buses and passenger vans have been target initially: “because when they are involved in a serious accident, they don’t just kill one, they kill a dozen, often foreigners, so that was the thing that really tipped it over,” Sealy says.

“The Thai authorities have previously had hand held speed cameras, but it became too hazardous for officers to use them because motorists career down the road at 150km/h and would just go straight through them. They are not about to stop or slow down. We have encountered this – we have had to have roads completely closed to allow safe installation of the EVR equipment.”

Border security is another major draw for use of EVR technology. The partners of Kollakorn are concentrating on an area from Malaysia through to Vietnam helping to give governments the visibility of what vehicles are doing. Sealy says: “There are currently a lot of security problems in the south of Thailand. Under increasing threat from car bombs, there is a growing need to make use of this kind of technology.”

Collaboration behind EVR technology

Technology of Thailand’s EVR system, installed and operated by Kollakorn (jointly owned by Mikoh Corporation and Somapar), is being supplied via collaborations between a number of companies. Among these, Federal Signal Technologies’ group company PIPS Technology is supplying its ALPR cameras, while Sirit – another Federal Signal company – is supplying its Sirit tag readers. The RFID tags are being manufactured by Federal Signal under license from Mikoh Corporation. Mikoh’s tamper-indication technology has given the company a vital role in development of the Thai EVR systems.

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