LTA’s recent press release on the potential implementation of a satellite based ERP system, which charges Singapore drivers on distance traveled over congested roads will be the biggest game changer for motorists in Singapore. If it comes to pass, of course. There were some other thoughts that piqued our interest though.
In a nutshell, here’s what this new system could spell for Singaporean motorist, should it be implemented:
- Current IU units will be replaced with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) units, which allow you car to be tracked while driving in the country. (Or even out of it as well, one assumes.)
- The possible removal of existing ERP gantries as they are increasing costly to maintain and would no longer be required.
- Motorists would then be charged on a distance-based pricing model, which tracks how much you drive within the defined “congested roads” and you only pay for the distance you travel.
- Potential implementation of coupon-less parking as the GNSS unit can track and charge you for the duration parked, without the need for paper coupons.
- A possible new pricing system for Off Peak Cars where instead of having to pay a blanket fee for “on peak” time usage, motorist again only need to pay for what they use in terms of time or distance traveled.
- This new usage – based charging system could potentially allow the government to lower COE costs (or do away with it) and not use that as a means of car ownership control anymore.
What Does This Really Mean?
All of these points are pretty valid and could work out well for motorists here, but we can’t seem to shake the ominous reference to George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984. In the novel, omnipresent government surveillance allows “Big Brother” to keep us “in check”, all of the time.
This thought is especially apparent with the tracking capabilities of the new proposed GNSS unit. Basically, the unit needs to be able to tell LTA when you car is stopping in a designated public car park, at what time, and for how long, all via satellite signal from your car’s GNSS unit. Doesn’t that mean it can also tell LTA when you’re NOT in a designated parking spot?
If it can do that, it’s safe to assume that the next time you stop at the side of the road to run into 7-eleven to buy a loaf of bread, they can track that as well. Which also means they can fine you instantly for ANY traffic infringement, ANYWHERE on the island, at ANY time.
How Will This Affect The Cost of Driving in Singapore?
The biggest advantage to this new system is that costs of cars in Singapore could get lowered significantly, and families or individuals who really need a car for daily life could jolly well be able to afford one. Rather than using the cost of the car to control traffic congestion, cars become inexpensive to buy but costly to use during times where congestion is at it’s highest. Good thinking.
However, what you may end up with is an increase in driving costs due to the number of fines you have to pay for the smallest of infringements. We aren’t advocating that you should be breaking the rules if or when you know you won’t get caught.
You’d be lying if you said you don’t occasionally overshoot the speed limit, park along double yellow lines to “da bao” something or only put enough coupons for 1 hour of parking even though you’re going to be there for 1 ½ hours. You’d also be lying if you claimed you’ve never made an illegal U – turn, driven in a bus lane, or jumped a non-camera traffic light (by accident). You get the picture.
It’s not far-fetched to assume these things are trackable given the new system.
On a side note, other more nefarious activities involving criminals in cars would also be track-able and potentially assist the cops in stopping crime. The police would also be notified should the unit be disabled in the car. Of course, there’s the small issue of cars coming in from out of town but that’s a different story for a different day.
Divorce lawyers may also be able to call upon new sources of evidence against sneaks who are lying to their spouses and driving to “K-TVs” when they were supposed to be “watching soccer with the bros”.
Anyway, we digress.
We do however, support a system that could lower the cost of cars in Singapore (which, as we wrote about, is pretty damn high), not so much for the benefit of house-holds with 3 cars already (and looking to get that new Porsche 911 Turbo as a weekend drive), but for the ones with 3 kids and live in grand parents, who just need to get the family from point A to B without having to squeeze on a train. In the meantime, the easiest way to cut down on your ownership costs is to first re-examine your car insurance, which you can do easily on MoneySmart as well.
What do you think of the new proposed changes to the ERP system? Do you really think this will benefit Singaporeans? We’d love to hear your thoughts here.