EETS technologies and the possible adoption of smartphone payments

Date: Tuesday August 25, 2020

In the third in our series of blogs about the implementation of EETS, we will have a closer look at the standardized OBU (on-board unit) technologies and provide insight into what technological changes the new EETS (European Electronic Tolling Service) directive will bring.

Four technologies are stated in the EETS Directive to deliver electronic tolling schemes

The ability to operate across European member states requires the use of one or more of the specified technologies:

  • Satellite positioning (GNSS)
  • Mobile communications (GSM-GPRS)
  • 8 GHz microwave technology (DSRC)
  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

These technologies are already well established on the European ETC market. In the directive’s final act, published in 2019, specifically video tolling systems using ANPR were added to the list – which does not require an OBU. Hereby optical character recognition is used to read vehicle registration plates.

ANPR is the only technology today that is used in almost all other tolling infrastructures

Nowadays, the technology is finding application in 3 ways: as a pure enforcement tool, as a backup in ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) domains, or in congestion charging schemes and low emission zones.

Whilst ANPR and machine vision technology is improving at a fast pace, it still cannot boast read rates close to an OBU-based charging technology, though it works better in low-speed environments. However, combining ANPR with a smartphone (as charging and payment device) could pose a huge threat to established technologies, and could lead to a phasing out of OBUs in certain ETC domains altogether.

We identify this trend, especially in the light vehicles market as it allows occasional users and foreign travellers to pay electronically without the need for an additional device:


ETC subscriptions by device type in % (Source: PTOLEMUS ETC Global Study)


Note: ANPR: Automatic Number-Plate Recognition, IR: Infrared, GNSS: Global Navigation Satellite System, RFID: Radio-Frequency Identification, DSRC: Dedicated Short-Range Communication




As a charging device, the smartphone acts as a direct replacement for existing OBUs. As a payment device, the smartphone supports ANPR based charging systems, and this combined “package” is growing in popularity due to its easy and user-friendly handling.

But how does the payment process work under the new directive? Stay tuned to get some insight into the EETS business model in our next blog post!