17 May 2022
By Yamin Vong
A Grab driver politely snubbed my attempt to have a friendly chat about the techy gadgets on the dashboard of his car. But he came alive when asked about his experience at the toll plaza.
I noticed that he used the RFID lane and asked about his experience in using the lanes.
Suddenly he came alive and became very enthusiastic about RFID; he said he was an early user and was so impressed that he had fitted his other car also with an RFID sticker. He had only good things to say about RFID.
My experience, also as an early user of RFID, is that there is a higher chance of transaction failures compared with SmartTag and the solution is to reduce the car’s speed going through the RFID lane.
This slow capture of data has since been overcome by the installation of video cameras at all the RFID lanes so that there is a fallback if the RFID reader fails to transact.
Together with the new high-speed twin-boom toll barriers, cars can now go through much faster than before.
The SmartTag technology supplier has also offered a pilot barrier-free multi-lane system in collaboration with PLUS and TnG Sdn Bhd.
But that is water under the bridge because TnG, the joint venture of CIMB and Alibaba, has introduced a new and powerful TnG card that can be topped-up through the TnG app on Android smartphones.
So if you felt that you had to choose between an RFID or a SmartTag, that’s not a choice you have to make any longer.
The problem is that there’s a shortage of supply of the new TnG card, priced at RM11, which eliminates the main problem of the old TnG card where the user had to physically top up.
Despite there being thousands of outlets, it was still double barrelled nuisance to keep track of the balance on the card and to have to physically do a cash-only transaction.
With the new card, the user can top up anywhere. The user may also authorise an automatic top-up once the funds in the card drop below a set value.
It would be logical for TnG to now try to convert people from the old card to the new.
TnG wants to enlarge its pool of TnG eWallet users and the economic way is to convert users to the new card which has the TnG eWallet embedded. According to the data, there is a population of 8 million old TnG cards in active circulation.
The new card is also compatible with the SmartTag system and this means that TnG Sdn Bhd, the toll system owner, can cut its expenses for retrofitting SmartTag lanes to RFID lanes.
The most important point of this controversy about SmartTag versus RFID is that it was sparked by the government’s insistence that toll plazas must implement a barrier-free system with the objective of having a congestion-free highway.
We taxpayers and highway users need to highlight to our elected leaders that they shouldn’t promise populist policies that are not logical.
The government has demanded an impossible task of highway concessionaires and TnG, the tolling system owner, of a congestion-free highway even during festive season traffic peaks.
All over the world where private motoring and urban population is dense, there will be traffic congestion during peak seasons. We might as well accept that there will be traffic congestion on less than 10 days a year when festive season traffic peaks and mitigates accordingly.
Forcing highway concessionaires and the toll system operator to engineer a barrier-free, free-flow highway for every day of the year won’t be free. Someone’s going to pay.
It would be wise if the works minister and the transport minister put their heads together and learn how to manage traffic congestion on highways with the help of their professional staff.
And for highway users of TnG cards, TnG should be rewarding you for converting to the new card embedded with the TnG eWallet. Instead, there is a shortage of new cards.
Why doesn’t TnG have a promotion where card owners can trade-in expired cards for new cards, with any remaining balance transferred to the new card?
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