Dubai Consumer Mirror

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Intelligent Traffic System in Dubai

Ok, Its great that Dubai is working very hard on rolling out an Intelligent Transportation System soon which The RTA announced a few months back. Also, there is lotsa talk about NOT having any Tolls or Road usage Fees... Even better..

If you've been driving around Dubai lately, you must have passed under several of those large-metallic-silver-erected-panels thingies that look like Futuristic traffic direction signboards.

Now, what those really are something like super-sized motion sensors.

Those sensors provide immediate and instantaneous road/traffic condition data based on cars movements running beneath them. All the panels in Dubai will be inter-connected to a central command/control hub. The road/car movement data that these sensors will provide are collected and processed into information and traffic reports such as average street speed, estimated travel time on road ...etc.

These reports can also be used and pushed to Traffic Police or even the public, in the form of SMS traffic alerts straight to your mobile or emails to your PC. Also, and with the proper adaptors, these reports could even be fed via GPRS to update your navigation application in your car or PDA.

Sounds awesome .. doesn't it?

But there is a flip side to this. These sensors-cum-sign boards create the perfect platform for one of the most crucial components of any Intelligent Transportation System: The
Electronic Toll Collection system.

So, for those who thought that Road Tolls in Dubai is just a silly idea and they won't happen, well think again. Road Tolls are just a few heartbeats away and will be implemented sooner than you think.

Just notice the locations of these signboard-like-panels, they are mainly scattered all over the entry points to Dubai.

There is one over Sh Zayed Road in the direction bound to Dubai coming from Abu Dhabi. There are several ones over the roads that take you into Dubai from Emirates road (Al Tuwar, Al Ghussais ..etc).

The one in Sharjah-to-Dubai highway is still laying on the right side of the road waiting to be erected. Of course there are also ones before bridges and over main roads like Al Maktoum, Al Garhoud, Al Khaleej, Sh. Rashid ... etc.

How this Electronic Toll Collection system can work:

It’s pretty simple really. First, you'll have to buy a pre-paid card with credit on it, just like the pre-paid phone cards. The card will have an embedded RFID tag (Radio Frequency Identification).

You will have to place the card on the dashboard or anywhere visible in the car.

Every time you pass by under one of these panels, the card will be detected by the transponders that are fixed on the panels.

The sensors then instantaneously recognize your card's unique ID and deducts the toll fee from your cards central database.

For argument's sake, let's say you buy a Dhs 30 toll-card and if the toll is for Dhs 3 per pass. That means your card is valid for 10 passes only.

Also, because of the interconnectivity of these panels, i think drivers can be able to choose to know which alternative routes are clear, and head there. The catch is, if you chose to drive thru a Toll area, you will have to pay for it.

If you, God forbid, don't have a card in your dashboard or carrying one with ZERO credit, the sensors will identify your vehicle as a "no-card" or "no-credit" and will automatically snap a picture of your car and a fine of maybe Dhs 200 will be slapped automatically.

Now, having said that. I am not sure how are they gonna tackle Dubai Residents vs non Dubai Residents driving in-out of Dubai. I mean, if I live in Dubai and I want to go to Sharjah. On my way back to Dubai, do I pay for for re-entering?

Tanswerer than, I think RTA will force Dubai registered cars to install boxes like this one to identify them as Dubai residents. But many Dubai registered car owners live in Sharjah and Ajman..

In that case, RTA might ask for users to present Dubai based home ownership/tenancy contracts. Fair enough…

But what about the people who share an homes with 10 other flat mates? What will the other flat mates do to prove they also live here? Or the people who are paying a monthly fee for a bed only in Dubai. How can he prove that he lives in Dubai? Or the people subletting a room only?‚Though subletting is illegal here, believe me, there are tens of thousands of such cases.

I am also not sure about how users will be able to monitor the balance on their cards. Most likely they will have solution for that in SMS updates, online credit check or an 800-number.

As much as I loath this system and its socio-economic impact, I honestly think it will have a drastic positive effect on the unbearable traffic and road conditions in Dubai. And driving will become a pleasure again.

People will then seriously consider car-pooling and use public transportation instead. These solutions are very much in use in several countries and cities world wide. They are quite popular in the US and Europe and the Far East.

Again, all above is hypothetical and I am not 100% sure if the Electronic Toll system will be in effect here in Dubai. I do, however, strongly believe this program will be in effect sooner than later.

I predict the program is in its final-touches stages with RTA. So until then, enjoy your free ride, cause it'll all be over soon.


  • Great that you have some brains that are functioning.

    Elfal lina :/

    By Blogger Jandeef, at September 19, 2006 at 10:58 PM  

  • How about we build some intelligent road users, before an ITS? "Ooh, shiny!", said the road planners as they fiddled with all buttons and bobs of their billion dollar new toy.

    It was only a matter of time. Pretty much the same system is implemented in Melbourne and while it does some benefits, you still get door-to-door jams on the freeway at rush hour.

    In fact, that's the problem. When will these road planners get it through their thick heads - we're not forming jams because we want to inconvenience them, it's because we all have to be in the same place at the same time.

    And it's nice of you to think of the faceless, which is more than the authorities would. I beg you to also think of those sad people among us who wont be arsed, speeding through the tolls and racking up fines like a congressional medal of honor.

    Yeah, things will change.

    By Blogger marwan, at September 20, 2006 at 5:48 AM  

  • Is there anything left in Dubai that people can do without paying money?

    Moryarti, the idea is from the Modern and futuristic point of view looks…intelligent! but executing it is absolutely wrong I believe. Yes Dubai will be Extra super duper futuristic City and visitors and surrounding countries will say WOW! Look how Dubai is becoming. But on the other hand…. Who will bear the cost is the residence of Dubai and maybe Sharja as well.

    I totally agree with Marwan that the problem of the rush, is simply because all of the people who live in Dubai + Sharja have to be in the same place at the same time using the only available maybe 2 main roads to each that place :)

    Mabrouk people of Dubai and Sharja… if the new system is implemented will pay money to be fined :)

    By Blogger blogyanonymous, at September 20, 2006 at 9:40 AM  

  • I prefer a more organic human Dubai. This is off topic, but the way things are going, the city will end up like that slick and futuristic fortified city from Resident Evil II.. and look what happened to its entire population by the end (all turned into the undead and then nuked, which for Dubai might actually be a good thing).

    If any emirate needs changing and enhancing its Sharjah. This place has a terrible infrastructure.

    By Blogger A Yahya, at September 20, 2006 at 10:38 AM  

  • wow! thats a lot of research... for me atleast.

    Thanx for this write up.

    By Blogger Harsha, at September 20, 2006 at 12:08 PM  

  • I think they should hold off with the road tolls until there is a credible alternative in place, ie, busses that run on time (will require dedicated bus lanes), and the Metro.

    By Blogger Keefieboy, at September 20, 2006 at 1:28 PM  

  • It's just yet another tax in our tax-free emirate.

    Keefieboy you're right of course. This happens around the world, but worse in Dubai - the authorities try to stop people using their cars but don't put an acceptable alternative in place - in Dubai's case, any alternative. Have tolls, have congestion charges, have whatever - but only after alternatives are up and running.

    Marwan, that's spot on - intelligent road systems with moronic drivers is pointless. "The sign says road ahead is jammed, but I'll blast down the hard shoulder and force my way in anyway so it doesn't matter."

    By Blogger Seabee, at September 20, 2006 at 3:38 PM  

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