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Electronic Vehicle Registration Picks Up Speed

A number of nations are using passive RFID tags to automatically verify cars are properly registered, as well as to monitor traffic levels.
By Beth Bacheldor
Feb 28, 2008In South Africa, at least 500,000 RFID tags are now being affixed to metal license plates to automatically identify vehicles and verify they are properly registered. Within the next two years, 10 million cars in that country are expected to sport electronic license plates.

In Bermuda, meanwhile, more than half of the island nation's cars and trucks currently have RFID-enabled registration stickers attached to their windshields, and all of its trucks and cars—nearly 25,000—are expected to have them by June of this year. Other countries—including Brazil, China, Dubai, India and Mexico—have either already begun implementing or are currently eyeing RFID-enabled vehicle identification and registration systems.

Steve Baumhardt
Such systems, known as electronic vehicle registration (EVR) or electronic vehicle identification (EVI), leverage passive RFID transponders—typically ultrahigh-frequency (UHF)—embedded in decals affixed to windshields or other parts of a vehicle. Fixed RFID interrogators installed at main traffic intersections or alongside roads, as well as handheld readers for use during traffic stops, can read the tags' unique ID numbers and then compare them with information in a back-end database to determine, for instance, who owns the vehicle, whether it is insured and if registration is up-to-date and taxes and fees are paid up. In addition, tag reads collected over a period of time can help municipalities better understand traffic patterns and flow.

IPICO is among the companies offering RFID-based EVI technology. The use of such systems, according to John Greaves, IPICO's VP, "really is bursting into public view now, and we [IPICO] are regularly becoming part of the dialogue with government agencies, particularly those in developing nations." Greaves says vehicle management is an increasing challenge in developing countries, noting, "Here are countries where you can find instances where police in rural areas don't have any ability to validate whether the owner of a car is legal."

Steve Baumhardt, VP of business development at TransCore, agrees. Without an easy and accurate way to confirm a vehicle's legality, Baumhardt says, nations are shortchanging themselves. "Many countries are losing a great deal of revenue due to noncompliance," he explains, "because they aren't collecting the taxes for registration. This is a problem in many cases that drives the interest in EVR."

Such was a motivating factor in Bermuda's EVR implementation. The nation loses an estimated $11 million every five years due to its inability to enforce licensing requirements. Bermuda's Transport Control Department has been working with TransCore and 3M's Traffic Safety Systems Division to deploy an EVR system that employs TransCore's RFID readers and passive UHF tags, which carry only a unique ID and comply with the ISO 18000-6B standard (see Bermuda's RFID Vehicle Registration System Could Save $2 Million/Year).

Another potential benefit of deploying EVR and EVI systems is their ability to count the number of cars that drive on a particular roadway during a specified period of time. Many cities worldwide have increasing levels of traffic, but were not designed to accommodate vehicles. Greaves cites the highly congested roads in Asian cities, noting, "The minute you see vehicles start to proliferate there, the minute you see urban gridlock."

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