We Might Not Like RFID, But We’d Probably Hate Singapore’s ERP


We Might Not Like RFID, But We’d Probably Hate Singapore’s ERP

If everyone seems to be hating on RFID so much, would we be happier or more frustrated if we just copied Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system instead?

The truth is that we’ll never really know, but judging by the factors that Malaysians find most relevant, it sounds like we’ll have much more scathing criticism should that have been imposed on us as a replacement for Touch n’Go and SmartTAG.


It seems you can’t wander far without hearing someone speak ill of RFID, especially in the Klang Valley. It’s been a rough couple of months for TNG Digital, the company operating the back end tech that makes the cashless system tick when trying to incorporate the major interstate highways to support RFID.

You’ve seen the news articles and social media posts of long queues and searing criticism at an incompetent system, but is that really the case? You’ve also seen plenty of pushback from the other side, defending its benefits and effectiveness over older methods.

SPRINT Highway Toll

Of Course, We Want All The Tolls Gone

But that's not going to happen anytime soon, is it? Someone has to pay for the upkeep and recoup the cost of construction of these many highways, and that always comes down to the everyday road user.

Right now, tolls allow only those motorists who choose to use it to be charged instead of all the costs being passed to the government who in turn passes it onto every single taxpayer, and we’re not sure how any political party can make promises of a sweeping toll abolishment without making pay up elsewhere.

Yes, we do want toll prices to decrease instead of the steady rise that we’ve been seeing. Toll concessionaires make more than enough money as it is, and that’s their prerogative as a business, which perhaps is part of the problem.

Singapore ERP Gantry

ERP: What’s Good For Singapore Isn’t Good For Us

At a technical level, the ERP system is very similar to the RFID stickers we use right now. Both use radio frequency identification, but where ERP differs is in the use of a transponder that actively and continuously projects an amplified signal to ensure quicker and very reliable detection by scanning receivers on overhead gantries.

This is how Singapore has achieved a multi-lane free flow road network - limited as it is - that is uninterrupted by toll booths or boom gates. However, these boosters (called In-Vehicle Units, or an IU) aren’t cheap at SGD$155.80 or about RM480.

Suddenly the RM35 TNG charges for an RFID sticker doesn’t sting so much. But yes, they’re still stupidly overpriced. Furthermore, the installation of an IU is mandatory for all new vehicles and isn’t exactly a 5-minute job since it needs to be wired to draw power from the car’s electrics kind of like a dashcam. Not only that, the ERP rates themselves fluctuate based on time of day, congestion level, and location.

TNG RFID Sticker

Supposedly, Singapore is overdue to transition to another (apparently) more advanced toll payment system that uses GPS triangulation to determine how far a car has travelled and how much a driver’s account should be charged. Whether or not that is an overall better solution remains to be seen, but it does sound a lot more invasive to privacy.

Because this transition will likely happen all at once, there won’t be an overlap period where both ERP and this new GPS system will be used simultaneously, some form of surcharge or fine probably awaits those who do not make the transition. This is in contrast to the choices we have at any given toll plaza on a Malaysian highway between Touch n’Go, SmartTAG, and now RFID (we need more lanes). And since TNG’s monopoly is ending in 2025, we could have an even more varied ecosystem of digital payment providers to make toll payments with.

Just don’t be one of those people that causes a long jam because they drove into an RFID lane with an empty eWallet balance, tried to use SmartTAG there, or forgot which payment method they used when they entered the highway.

Such smart, wow intelligence…..

Duta Toll Plaza Jam

What’s Next?

The (self-explanatory) term ‘multi-lane free flow’ has been spewed out much too many times as of late as a sort of crutch absent a better, more pointed defence of RFID, which is presented as the only way Malaysia will achieve that goal by 2025.

Well, anyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together knows this is not true. However, it is probably our best chance while spending the least money and using mostly existing infrastructure.

Sure, there are very obvious and avoidable issues surrounding its implementation and getting the public properly educated, but that can be attributed to human error and isn’t a fault of the underlying technology.

Green Packet - MLFF Besraya Highway

Eventually, all toll booths will dispense with any barriers at all and newer highways will ideally not require funnelled lanes at all. Cars can just drive along as normal (though under a certain speed) for the RFID system to work.

An example of this barrier-less free-flow toll system is already being trialled along the Besraya Highway, installed and operated by Green Packet with Taiwanese technology partner FETC International (FETCI).

That’s where this is all headed. And unlike Singapore’s ERP, the ‘heavy lifting’ when it comes to signal detection and vehicle identification is not done in-car and, on the part of the motorist, requires only the same inexpensive RFID sticker being deployed right now.

Jim Kem

Jim Kem

Content Producer

There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.