Little is known about the numbers of the Gauteng open-road toll network (GORT), beyond the well publicised 70% of users who don’t pay their toll bills. However, South Africa’s first electronic toll collection system has laid bare an interesting array of data since its 2010 inception.
For example, says Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) CEO Coenie Vermaak, roughly 5% of GORT users drive cloned and duplicate vehicles. This refers to an almost identical vehicle with a licence plate similar to a legally operated vehicle.
ETC is the company that operates the e-toll systems in Gauteng, on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
ETC manages a “massive amount of data” on a daily basis, notes Vermaak.
“It is one of the largest single database instances in the world. In fact, it is the single biggest Oracle database instance in the world.”
The ETC database is six petabytes in size. A single petabyte is 10(15) bytes of data, or 1-million gigabytes in size.
To store a single petabyte would take more than 745 million floppy disks or 1.5-million CD-ROM discs. Also, 3.4 years of 24/7 full high-definition video recordings would be around one petabyte in size.
This database is created by ETC taking three photos of each vehicle passing underneath each gantry, says Vermaak.
“For every gantry the system creates an invoice, a financial transaction and three images.
“We do about four-million transactions a day. A transaction is an invoice, a financial transaction and three images.
“To see this in context, we do more transactions a month than the whole of the banking sector in South Africa in a month combined.”
Using the electronic national administration traffic information system (eNaTIS) to send e-toll collection notices to non-registered GORT customers has proven problematic, says Vermaak.
“There are 5-million road users in Gauteng, but only 1.8-million are registered. Our experience is that as much as 50% of the time the information [on eNaTIS] is wrong.”
The camera technology at the gantries is accurate up to 250 km/h.
The highest speed ETC has seen on average between gantries is 360 km/h.
“If we have to give tickets to people [speeding] above 140 km/h, the value of those tickets would be R100-million a week,” says Vermaak.
He says ETC is working with government to introduce average speed over distance monitoring and enforcement on the GORT.
Contractors are also working with Sanral on defining a number of value-added services for registered e-toll customers, such as a parking solution where e-tags will allow parking in selected areas, with the e-tag providing an automatic payment solution upon exit.
Another possible solution would be a rewards scheme for safe driving attached to insurance companies, says Vermaak, as e-tags allow for speed over distance monitoring.
Vermaak notes that ETC has just deployed a mobile app that allows for urgent top-ups in real time.
“If you are stuck on GORT, there will be someone there to assist within 12 minutes,” he adds.
* Vermaak addressed the Intelligent Transport Society South Africa’s annual general meeting, held in Pretoria.