Forum: On-board unit for new ERP system needs better design

The new onboard unit for cars will come in a three-piece unit, comprising an antenna, a touchscreen display and a processing unit.
The new onboard unit for cars will come in a three-piece unit, comprising an antenna, a touchscreen display and a processing unit.PHOTO: LTA

The new on-board unit (OBU) to replace the current in-vehicle unit has been unveiled, with Singapore set to switch to a satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system (New ERP system to start in 2023 without distance charging, Sept 9).

Singapore has long prided itself on being at the forefront of technology. But in this case, the three-piece OBU does not seem to reflect that. It looks clunky and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Most modern cars have a display monitor of some kind, be it part of the entertainment system, as a separate monitor, or in the display cluster located in front of the steering wheel.

We should aim to integrate the new system seamlessly into these existing displays, instead of having a separate device. Any such form of distraction poses a danger.

A UK study found that sending a text message delays reaction times by 37 per cent. By comparison, drinking to the legal limit delays reaction times by 13 per cent and speaking on a hand-held telephone delays reaction by 46 per cent, the Transport Research Laboratory found.

Also, the OBU's large display looks rather tacky and does not blend into the dashboard.

Research has shown that adding more interactive smart devices actually increases the braking distance, thereby endangering the motorist.

When a car is on the move, there should be no reason to look at the OBU display or even to touch it. Instructions could be made audible.

In addition, having three separate parts to the OBU complicates installation and repairs.

Other countries have taken up our ERP concept and added it to their road systems. Here is an opportunity to show how we can again be a pacesetter in this area.

Peter Loon Seng Chee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2020, with the headline 'On-board unit for new ERP system needs better design'. Print Edition | Subscribe