My Experience Testing the New RFID System for Toll Payments in Malaysia

As Malaysia’s highways head towards a cashless barrierless toll system, the RFID system, which is supposed to enable it, is being pilot tested. Here is our Automologist LING’s experience testing out the new mode of payment

Sometime in August, I caught wind that Touch n’ Go (TnG), Malaysia’s ubiquitous e-payment service provider, was calling for people to participate in the pilot programme for the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system, the new toll collection system that would replace the SmartTag.

Read about it:

So, I moseyed (digitally) over to their website to register and received an email thanking me for my interest, with the following bit of info:

RFID technology is a globally accepted technology, with some of the following benefits:

  • Improves efficiency of toll collection systems.
  • Allows users to track, top-up, and monitor their credit conveniently.
  • Traffic is expected to improve as vehicles can move easily through toll gates

The end goal for us was to integrate our driving and toll payment process to achieve a seamless highway experience. 

Cool.

I then promptly forgot all about it.

3rd September arrived and I received another email informing me that I did not make it into the first phase of the test, which had begun. (“Thank you once again for your patience and support, while we work to bring a seamless highway experience to all Malaysians.”) Aw. Too bad.

I forgot all about it again.

Then, last week, another email comes. There were new slots now and I could register to get my RFID sticker.

“…but with great power, comes greater responsibility. As a pilot user, you may face challenges or inconveniences, but we would like to request for your cooperation and understanding while we work on the resolutions. We too are walking on uncharted territories, and we hope to explore this technology’s capabilities together with you.

To help us improve the technology’s overall experience, we request that you share with us your continuous feedback – whether positive or negative. Your feedback is invaluable, and every suggestion will help us move one step closer towards a seamless multi-lane free flow society.”

In short: “The RFID system will be problematic; don’t shout at us; tell us when it goes wrong but be nice; we’re still figuring this out!

Okay!

Firstly, I had to download the TnG eWallet app, which is the ONLY way to reload credit into the RFID account.

Then, via the TnG website, I made an appointment to get my car fitted with the RFID sticker. The day arrived and I made my way to the fitment centre at the NPE Pantai Dalam Customer Service Centre (the fitment centre of my choosing). I handed over a photocopy of my identification card and insurance cover note as proof of ownership of the car (alternatively, I could have provided copies of my driver’s license and car ownership card).

How many men does it take to affix an RFID-chip-in-a-sticker on my car? The answer is TWO.

Before sticking it on, they tested it with a handheld signal gun:

OKAY, SIGNAL GOOD. STICK!

Apparently, metal and window tint interfere with the signal. But my car windows are not tinted (I’m but a poor writer…and I never got around to it), so they positioned it on the inside of my windscreen. Another suitable location would be on a headlamp.

It’s that little white sticker next to the rearview mirror.

And that was it. I left the fitment centre, no more than 10 minutes later. I still had to wait for my RFID account to be activated, which took about an hour, when I received a notification text. YES. It was time to lose my RFID virginity.

I pulled up to the first toll with some trepidation. What if it didn’t work? I would have to make the dreaded gostan (reverse) move to back out of the lane and into another one, incurring the wrath of all behind me.

Here we go…

Silently—because unlike the SmartTag and TnG panel, the RFID chip emits no sound—the barrier lifted, and I glided past.

Most toll plazas do not, at the moment, have dedicated RFID lanes, but share it with either a SmartTag or TnG lane:

Get out of my way, you mere TnG user.

 

I see now what they mean about having “great power”.

Finally, a dedicated RFID lane. I’m definitely using this route more often from now:

NO SLOWPOKE IN MY WAY. MUAHAHA.

 

Three toll plazas later, I was home and my eWallet was running low. I topped up using my credit card (other options include online banking or reload pin). I also realised then how much money I spend on toll and resolved to use public transport more…starting someday.

My experience in the three days that followed had been seamless. There was no problem with signal-detection nor with reloading the eWallet. My SmartTag is languishing in the glove compartment and I no longer have to queue to top up my TnG card.

People have asked me how they can also get their own RFID-chip/sticker, but registration for the pilot phase is closed. You’ll have to stick to the good ol’ SmartTag and TnG for now, and I can feel like I rule the roads (it takes so little) for just a bit longer.

  • NIGEL MCKENZIE
    October 22, 2018 - 9:38 am

    The rest of the world has some form of RFID system for collecting tolls, okay in a bunch of places that I have visited recently. This is not particularly new technology so why does it seem so painful to implement for the Malaysian toll roads?

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