City tests smart way ahead for car users: Cambridge has embarked on a hi-tech, road-pricing diet but the start was not without its hiccups

THE FIRST experiment using the technology of road pricing, which would allow motorists to be charged extra for driving at congested times, has been launched in Cambridge, writes Christian Wolmar.

The experiment, backed by the Department of Transport and the European Community, involves a system of roadside beacons, with 'smart cards' and a reader being fitted into the car. As the car enters the central area, its meter is turned on by a roadside beacon. If its speed falls below a certain level, units are automatically deducted from the smart card.

Professor Peter Hills, head of the development team, said: 'You would charge up the smart card at a service station . . . there would be a machine to do it.'

The system is being tested in Cambridge as part of a Europe-wide initiative to assess and develop the equipment that would be needed for a variety of road-pricing methods. However, Mike Sharpe, Cambridgeshire's director of transportation, said it was unlikely that any full-scale scheme would be operating before the end of the century: 'The hurdles to overcome are not technological but political. There has to be a full public debate and acceptance and it would need new legislation.'

The point was underlined yesterday morning on the local radio station when the owner of McKay's ironmongers in the middle of town warned that he would have to move his business out of town if the scheme was introduced.

Professor Hills thought that several European cities might be operating the scheme before the end of the century.

The experiment is part of a wider, three-year government study into road pricing and transport ministers have recently been more bullish about the possibility of some form being introduced in Britain. The equipment being tested in Cambridge was developed by a team from Newcastle upon Tyne University, and involves only three cars and two beacons.

Yesterday, the pitfalls were all too apparent. A red Ford Escort fitted with the onboard equipment, which included a keypad and electronic display plugged into the car's cigarette lighter, failed to function. A Cavalier was called up but again there was trouble. The machine interpreted efforts to operate the equipment as an attempt to defraud it. 'Violation - card misused. Vehicle Enforced,' the machine responded.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen