Thanks to COVID-19 and the national coin shortage, the days of throwing a few coins in a toll booth collection bin may have finally passed us by. But don’t think that the thruway and bridge authorities are going to stop trying to get into your wallet.
According to Audi, the U.S. toll road system is comprised of five major tolling hardware and software protocols, 90 tolling agencies, 12 interoperable groups, and 20 tolling brands.
The system can work with most every toll collection system in the county.Photo courtesy of Audi AG
More and more people are using electric toll collection (ETC) systems, which allow them to prepay for their tolls then use a toll tag within their vehicle to transmit to an overhead antenna at a toll station, which reads the toll tag and accesses the associated account for funds. In some states, such as Texas, instead of using a transmission device, the ETC system simply reads your vehicle’s license plate then charges the person responsible for the registration of the vehicle.
Audi’s new MIB 3 system is taking this a step further. The company’s cars are now available with an Integrated Toll Module (ITM), which allows the car to serve as a transponder to various toll collection services rather than having a series of gaudy transponders attached to your vehicle.
The technology used vehicle-to-infrastructure technology. ITM was created by Gentex, a company that is a longtime supplier to the automotive and aerospace industries. They also make auto-dimming rearview mirrors, integrated HomeLink garage door openers, and dimmable windows for aircrafts.
Gentex first floated the idea at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Shortly thereafter, Audi went all-in, with help from partner Payvaim. The result is a new consumer-based tolling technology adapted from the commercial trucking industry that utilizes greatly downsized hardware for automotive applications.
The technology is integrated into the vehicle meaning unattractive toll tags are a thing of the past.Photo courtesy of Audi AG
There were several issues to consider in the creation of the technology. Windshields also collect heat from outside the car and multiply the temperatures within the mirror housing. Additionally, the components also had to adhere to U.S. Federal Communications Commission guidelines regarding radio frequencies and limits on interference.
ITM’s primary purpose would be to serve North American customers. ITM is the only factory-integrated, multi-protocol tolling device that allows access to all U.S. toll roads with one account.
The first Audi with the technology was the E-Tron SUV. ITM is now available in most of the 2021 lineup.