Cardless cure for ERP anxiety

It is a common feeling of dread motorists have as they approach an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry - not knowing if they have enough on their CashCard to pay the road tolls.

But a host of payment systems, new and current, may take the edge off this anxiety, as they will let motorists breeze through the ERP gantries, and bill the toll to a credit card linked to the in-vehicle unit or deduct it from a virtual wallet managed by a payment provider.

The latest product to hit the market on Tuesday was EZ-Link's EZ-Pay.

Though based on the same concept as DBS' eight-year-old MotorPay, unlike that service and others now in the market, EZ-Pay draws no fees.

EZ-Link said it could provide the service for free as it uses its existing payment infrastructure.

In comparison, MotorPay users pay a monthly subscription fee of $1.07, while Nets' vCashCard virtual wallet charges 50 cents for automatic top-ups. Both DBS and Nets gave no indication whether they would waive these fees.

The current drawback of all these payment systems is that they will not work at carpark gantries, so the system is not seamless yet and motorists will still need their CashCard.

EZ-Link and Nets have said they are working with carpark operators to accept cardless payments. The former has committed to getting this up and running in shopping mall Jurong Point at the end of next month, while the latter said carpark payment will be available in the "near future".

As cardless payment continues to gain traction, it could potentially become the way to pay for other motoring services - say, a car wash - as well.

More importantly, experts say cardless payment will prepare motorists for the next-generation satellite-based ERP, which will launch from 2020, and spell the end of physical gantries. Unlike the case with a CashCard, the alternative post-paid systems allow users to track their transactions down to where and when they were charged. Such transparency will be increasingly demanded by commuters in the next-generation ERP era.

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'Cardless cure for ERP anxiety'. Print Edition | Subscribe