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      Press Release
      November 23, 2021

      Throwing out the On-Board Units: Continental Develops the Future of Commercial Vehicle Tolling

      • An innovative On-Board Equipment (OBE) solution shall replace the windscreen On-Bord Units (OBUs) which currently serve to handle EU-wide tolling.
      • The evolving OBE solution offers many advantages over the stand-alone “boxes” of today: higher data quality, lower overall cost, better updatability, new business models.
      • New whitepaper lays out Continental´s vision in full detail to restart an old discussion with a new and bold technological approach.

      Schwalbach, Germany, November 23, 2021. Continental is preparing a lunge forward into the future of commercial vehicle tolling. To date, an isolated single hardware – the On-Board Unit (OBU) – installed behind the truck windscreen communicates with toll barriers, roadside toll stations and backends. This will work in every European country in which the OBU has passed through conformity testing. Considering the scattered European tolling landscape, the financial and time effort behind getting an OBU approved for many European countries has been the big downside of this approach from day one. The underlying general principle of utilizing one “box” per function is currently approaching its end in factory-installed systems. Increasingly, software and a new electronic and electric architecture (E/E) begin to replace the network of many dedicated hardware units. By applying this sweeping global trend, Continental is preparing a new approach to tolling: instead of a dedicated “box”, which means a high capital invest and high cost per vehicle, the Continental solution consists of distributed function units – many of which already exist in the truck anyway.

      The distributed On-Board Equipment (OBE) solution is a more efficient approach than the use of isolated hardware. Among the advantages are a higher accuracy in toll collection as some typical OBU issues are solved. Updateable software controls the complete toll collection by utilizing the individual OBE system components and ensuring that only correct and complete data is transmitted to the proxy. In addition, a complete set of software functions and security tests protects the distributed system from manipulations and unauthorized access.

      Why the days of the “box” are numbered

      “Smooth and precise tolling procedures are essential for professional road users and fleet managers, for instance, to avoid becoming an unintended toll offender. The distributed On-Board Equipment will open up attractive opportunities for the whole tolling industry to network existing functional components to form a factory-installed, vehicle-specific, distributed and easily updateable On-Board Equipment solution”, says Dr.-Ing. Andreas Müller, Head of Tolling & Connected Hardware at Continental´s Commercial Vehicle Fleet Services business segment.

      As an isolated piece of hardware, the OBU behind the windscreen brings some typical problems. Among those issues are loose connections, the risk of a mismatch between an OBU and the vehicle it is installed in, and also that older OBU versions with limited computing and storage capabilities can pose a challenge to over-the-air updates. However, the biggest OBU downside is the lengthy and costly conformity testing in each European country. “This can take 10 months for one country alone”, says Andreas Müller. As a result, existing OBU hardware is used as long as possible to avoid the heavy invest in the conformity testing of a new box generation. This is in direct conflict with the accelerating innovation cycles of today and the growing dominance of software in vehicles of all types.

      No dedicated hardware required: existing components form a distributed OBE solution

      Continental’s concept for the tolling of the future addresses all of those issues. The contents of the previous “box” is distributed to factory-installed components: GNSS sensor data, e.g., can be delivered by the navigation system or the smart tachograph. The tachograph also contains a DSRC modem, which can in future be used for tolling as well. The user interface can be provided via the existing head unit which offers the benefit of providing a consistent user interaction concept. For the data exchange to the proxy via mobile internet, there is a whole choice of solutions, like Bluetooth, GSM or LTE. Making the digital smart tachograph one of the main components of a distributed OBE solution greatly contributes to the security level and manipulation safety. It also improves the tolling data quality as it is fully connected to the vehicle architecture and information system.

      “Smooth tolling should not be about praying the old hardware will last yet another year”

      The 2025 European Commission’s Mobility Package (e.g. regular vehicle returns to the member state of establishment, plus Cabotage quotas) is understood to make it necessary to retrofit trucks used by fleet owners for international transport with new smart tachographs that document compliance with the new rules. Continental’s new tolling concept is timed exactly to utilize this window of opportunity and to add the benefit of a distributed OBE. Making this happen requires EU-wide harmonized OBE conformity testing based on interface standardization. The “interoperability constituents” of an OBE solution (= its functional components) shall be tested against harmonized test standards. To reap the benefits of an OBE solution, applicable test standards need to be defined. “With all the changes coming, transport industry, tolling providers and the suppliers of the technical infrastructure have to come up with something better than just praying the old hardware will last yet another year”, says Müller.

      With the goal of restarting an old discussion on new technological ground and with a bold, visionary approach, Continental has prepared a white paper explaining the situation in more detail and outlining the new OBE solution concept. This white paper can be downloaded at:


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