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Singapore Road Safety | Using Technology for Smart Driving

Tue, 08/10/2021 - 12:00
DirectAsia Insurance_a person sitting in the driver's seat, pointing at the car's dashboard

How Technology Encourages Intelligent Driving

Reading time: 4 mins

Did you know that a connected vehicle technology system like a car or motorcycle On-Board Unit (OBU) has the potential to increase traffic safety, reduce traffic pollution, and ease traffic congestion? With OBU, the interaction of information among motorists, roads, and the environment is enhanced, which can significantly change your driving behaviour. 

If you think the OBU is merely a device to store a credit card, or a cash card with monetary value inside it, think again. To increase safety and encourage safer driving behavior, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore has developed the next-generation OBU that can help you drive more intelligently.

In this article, we’ll explore the new OBU system together; finding out what it’s really capable of, how it works and ultimately how it can help you drive better. 

What is an On-Board Unit (OBU)?

If you drive a vehicle in Singapore, chances are you already have an In-Vehicle Unit (IU) installed in it. It’s the device seated on the right hand side of your dashboard, or fitted onto the front of your motorbike, that beeps when you enter an Electronic Parking System (EPS) carpark or cross the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry. The OBU is a newer device that will be replacing the IU.

Yes, the IU is a device primarily used to store your cash card. When you travel on roads with ERP gantries, you’ll often hear it beep when you cross the gantry, indicating that money has been deducted electronically via the device. 

There are two types of in-vehicle units:

1. The Old IU

Although there was no official name given for this IU, as it was the first IU deployed in Singapore, nowadays, it’s commonly referred to as the “old” IU. And it is currently still in use by some vehicles. This IU only accepts NETS CashCard to make payments. 

2. The New IU / Dual Mode IU

Introduced in 2009, the dual-mode IU is currently the one being used by most drivers on Singapore roads. It’s relatively smaller than the old IU, but its size ultimately depends on what kind of vehicle you drive, as there are different IU's for each of the six vehicle classes. The new IU accepts NETS CashCard, NETS FlashPay, Credit Cards and CEPAS-compliant cards (EZ-Link, NETS, Transitlink).

CEPAS stands for Contactless e-Purse Application. It essentially makes your EZ-Link cards work like an e-wallet. The new IU shows both your cash card balance as well as the amount deducted, however the old IU only shows your cash card balance. You’ll have to ensure that your cash card has sufficient funds reloaded before inserting it into the IU, so that it can be automatically detected by the scanners to deduct the set amount when needed. If it’s low in value, you will hear your IU beeping intermittently as a reminder to top up.

DirectAsia Insurance_photo by LTA on the new OBU Processing Unit
Source: The Straits Times

What are the changes in the new OBU?

The new OBU – which comprises an antenna, a touchscreen display (mounted near the windscreen) and a processing unit (installed under the dashboard) for cars, or a single-piece unit for motorcycles – enables additional services to motorists to ease driving, as LTA will be able to disseminate traffic advisories through the unit. It also allows you to pay for parking, checkpoint tolls, and usage of off-peak cars electronically. The OBU has a designated slot for CEPAS, and you can opt for Giro or billing via credit or debit card.

With this new OBU, pricing will be charged according to the distance travelled on congested roads, instead of physical per-entry gantries. It’ll also potentially allow off-peak car owners to pay only for using their vehicles for short periods, rather than the whole day. These functions will use the global navigation satellite system with the new ERP system that will be activated after the second half of 2023 to replace the older system currently in place.

When will this new OBU system take effect?

The installation of the new OBU will commence in the second half of 2023 with an estimated 18-month switchover period involving almost one million vehicles. Initially planned for the end of this year (2021), LTA recently announced that there is a delay in this transition due to global chip shortage, which is expected to ease up by the end of 2022 towards early 2023.

Good news is, ample notice will be given to motorists and the motor vehicle industry ahead of the installation exercise and the Singapore government has committed to bear the one-time replacement costs – from IU to OBU – for all Singapore-registered vehicles. You may read more about the OBU switchover guidelines on LTA’s official website.

Why is it necessary to change to the OBU system?

Land congestion is a prevailing problem in Singapore. The quota placed on Certificate of Entitlements (COEs) is insufficient as a deterrent to curb the increasing number of cars and motorcycles on roads, so, to prevent excessive road usage, the LTA has taken this as a measure to reduce congestion.

On top of that, the LTA has deemed that it is infeasible to continue the near-obsolete 23-year-old system due to hefty maintenance costs, assuring road users that the new OBU system will be easier to maintain. 

How can the new OBU help you drive intelligently?

Ultimately, the OBU can improve road traffic safety and enhance mobility through the exchange of real-time traffic information to road users, which includes; traffic conditions, parking information, estimated travel time as well as the ability to alert motorists of accidents and road works. It also provides information on ERP charging locations and rates, as well as locations of nearby school zones and Silver Zones to enhance the safety of senior pedestrians. Basically, it’s an all-in-one traffic information device that can help you plan and make more intelligent decisions as you drive.

Factors depending on on-going variables like, slippery roads due to heavy rain or slow traffic flow and road infrastructure (e.g., speed change due to road works), will allow you to make smarter choices on-the-go. Perhaps you may choose to avoid that right turn, slow down or avoid braking harshly if there’s an accident up ahead. The ultimate goal is to enable an intelligent driving behavior adjustment based on relevant road information.

Being able to sense and receive communication about road hazards around you, will also fundamentally reduce delay during traffic jams, contribute to greener transportation choices and possibly reduce vehicle emissions.

Paving the way for intelligent driving

It’s evident that the OBU is a helpful device to aid you in making knowledgeable decisions while driving or riding on Singapore roads. More precisely, it aims to provide you with feedback generated by intelligent software to enable you to modify your driving behaviour towards safer commutes. Adopting this new technology makes you a forerunner in paving the way for intelligent driving and preserving an overall better environment for future generations.
To add on to your safety, don’t forget to equip yourself with the best car or motorcycle insurance in Singapore. Direct Asia offers three main cover types for car insurance as well as motorbike insurance to give you total peace of mind when navigating through Singapore roads. Get a quick quote online or call us at 6665 5555 for more information. Let’s safely move forwards and onwards together!