New ERP system: Motorists think 3-piece onboard unit too big and clunky

The next-generation Electronic Road Pricing system features a three-piece onboard unit, including a touchscreen and processing unit. PHOTOS: LAND TRANSPORT AUTHORITY

SINGAPORE - Motorists welcome the additional features of the next-generation Electronic Road Pricing system, but feel its three-piece onboard unit (OBU) is clunky, inelegant and takes up too much space.

Mr Eugene Ong, 50, said: "Singaporeans love their cars, and they want to preserve their original look and feel as much as possible.

"It would be good if we can streamline and have the OBU interface with the infotainment systems - which most modern cars have - so that there is no need for another touchscreen."

As for cars without an infotainment screen which can interface with the OBU, the sales director suggested options for "flexible placement" of the touchscreen.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on Tuesday (Sept 8) that installation of a new OBU to replace the current in-vehicle unit will start in the latter half of next year.

In addition to providing information on ERP charging locations and rates, the OBU will also give real-time road traffic updates and locations of nearby School Zones and Silver Zones.

It will have two designs - a one-piece unit for motorcycles; and for other vehicles, a three-piece unit comprising an antenna, a touchscreen display to be mounted on the windscreen and a processing unit which can be mounted beneath the dashboard.

Freelance writer Lynn Tan, 42, said: "The additional features on the OBU are useful for motorists because not everyone uses driving apps and not every car is equipped with navigation system with real-time updates.

"But I wish the design of the OBU can be less bulky. For instance, can the processing unit be integrated with the touchscreen without adding to its bulk? If not, can the processing unit be concealed?"

Retiree Lai Meng, 61, who drives as well as ride a motorcycle, said he likes the new features of the new ERP system.

"It also makes sense to do a progressive roll-out of the new system to work out the bugs," he said.

"But I hope distance-based charging can be implemented soon since this is one key reason for the system switch."

Mr Lai said distance-based charging would encourage "a more judicious driving culture in Singapore and hopefully an adjustment to the current front-heavy motoring tax regime".

Ms Tan concurred. "I am all for distance-based charging as it seems like a fairer system. The further you drive, the more you pay. Makes sense."

Airline pilot Andrew Koh, 39, said: "I cannot comprehend why there is a need for more than one type of onboard unit. Why would bikers and non-bikers require a different display size and type?

"Wouldn't a three-piece unit mean unnecessarily higher unit cost and technical installation complications?"

He added that having such a system would also require the stocking of multiple components.

Business consultant Albert Lee, 61, said he hopes a distance-based charging platform can be implemented soon, so upfront car taxes can be reviewed.

"A usage-based charging system must serve its purpose, and not be seen merely as motorists having to pay more."

Car taxes were reduced, and more certificates of entitlement were released soon after the current ERP system started in 1998.

The LTA did not say when the system can start charging for distance and if the project cost of $556 million included a distance-charging feature. During the Budget this year, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had said the technology for distance-based charging "is still several years away".

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