The city of Stockholm, Sweden, today announced the early results of a pilot congestion pricing system designed to alleviate traffic, reduce pollution and increase the use of public transportation. The system uses cameras positioned along city routes and the drivers are encouraged to outfit their cars with RFID transponders that interact with stations along the road. Cars that are not equipped with the device are photographed, matched to a motor vehicle database, and then billed by the integrated system. All eligible vehicles entering or leaving the charging zone are charged based on time of day, with fares highest during peak rush hours, and up to a maximum charge per day.
Developed in collaboration with IBM Research and implemented by IBM Global Services, the innovative Stockholm Project has yielded a 25 percent reduction in the first month of operation, removing 100,000 vehicles from the roads during peak business hours while resulting in a corresponding increase of 40,000 mass transit users per day.
The system is scheduled to run for seven months, at which time Stockholm residents will vote on whether or not they will agree to pay for the privilege of driving in the city. If the referendum passes, Sweden will implement the world's most extensive system of congestion pricing.
"It is important to me for Stockholm to become an exciting region in Europe," said Mayor of Stockholm Annika Billstrom. "From an international perspective, it is important to not only have economic growth, but environmental growth. Many cities have serious environmental issues. We are now doing this trial with a modern, exciting, new system which the rest of Europe and the world can learn from."
"The Stockholm project involved a collaborative effort by some of IBM's most talented divisions across the globe and can be replicated in cities around the world," said Peggy Kennelly, vice president, IBM On Demand Innovation Services. "IBM's ability to harness innovative thinkers around the world enables a synergy that combines insight with sophisticated technologies, bringing added value business engagements such as the Stockholm system."
The IBM implementation starts by examining the photographs of the license plates and attempting to identify the car number. If the complete number is identified immediately, it is recorded in the system and stored for further business processing. If identification fails, the picture is moved to a central server where sophisticated algorithms make a second attempt at identification using techniques such as image enhancement, comparison of the front and back plates to make sure they correspond.
Payment is made by a number of channels including by direct debit triggered by the recognition of an electronic tag that is loaned to drivers. Camera and number plate recognition technologies identify those vehicles without tags, and are also used to verify tag readings and provide evidence to support the enforcement of non-payers.
The technology chosen allows the city authority to vary the charge throughout the day, drivers to have direct debit accounts and a more efficient total operation. So far, the system has been fully operational during the charging hours of 6.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Monday to Friday.