Pay the toll to the machine

Programmable automation controllers provide intelligence in outdoor payment kiosks.

3Automating toll roads is a popular automation application that requires reliable and convenient collection of data from road sensors and money from drivers without the need for a booth operator to save costs.

PayWerks Systems, Inc. provides Web-based traffic and road-use information to local and federal government agencies as well as private and public companies involved in traffic engineering and management. Early in the concept development, PayWerks identified a need for cheap, ubiquitous, relevant, and reliable data on everyday traffic-related activities and field operations. In seeking to address these issues and fulfill this need, PayWerks began developing hardware offerings based on open and standard technologies.

A request to provide several products for a California toll agency resulted in the development of Advanced Toll Payment Machines (ATPMs), outdoor payment kiosks that allow cash-paying toll road customers to conveniently pay the cost of the toll using paper currency, coin, or a combination of both and receive change from the amount deposited. The ATPM (Figure 1) accepts cash and coin at two height levels (“Miata” and “SUV”) and can print a transaction receipt.

Figure 1: An Advanced Toll Payment Machine (ATPM) allows cash-paying toll road customers to pay the toll and receive change.
(Click graphic to zoom)

PayWerks embedded Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs, see sidebar) as a key component in the ATPMs. These controllers provide the intelligence that enables the ATPM to know the amount of the customer’s toll and gives them the ability to pay it. The controller connects to infrared lane sensors that identify the class of vehicle – single-, double-, or multi-axle. The sensors then communicate with the controller, transmitting the data via a standard serial connection to input modules that work with the PAC.

Sidebar 1: SNAP PACs for serial communication
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.7x)

In many cases, a human tollbooth worker receives information from sensors and then confirms the vehicle type and appropriate cost. But according to PayWerks President Bill Foster, many of his customers (toll road operators) lose money if their tollbooths are manned 24 hours a day. Using ATPMs with PACs and modules (Figure 2) aids these customers by letting them reduce staff hours without sacrificing service, resulting in significant cost savings.

Figure 2: Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs) give the ATPM the intelligence to know the amount of the customer’s toll and allow them to pay it.
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.9x)

PayWerks offers an integrated system that provides all of the necessary toll collection, change provision, monitoring, and features. By supplying both the control and monitoring hardware and serving as a data service provider, PayWerks is relieving its customers of the burdens of installing and maintaining hardware and software and eliminating the need to hire additional staff to manage the data.

These ATPMs are used by highway authorities and traffic management organizations throughout the United States, including the California Transportation Corridor Agency, which operates most of the toll roads in Orange County. ATPMs have also been deployed for customers in Ohio and Michigan. These customers represent some of the premiere toll agencies in the country that are implementing the latest technologies in their toll road designs. In these deployments, the ATPMs and their embedded control systems have demonstrated reliability and toughness in the face of vibration, dust, and extreme temperature changes.

Visit for more information on PayWerks’ hardware and data service offerings.

Benjamin Orchard is an application engineer at Opto 22 specializing in consulting, specifying, and implementing hardware and software for control, monitoring, and data acquisition projects. In addition to a degree in Building Engineering Management, he has more than 20 years of experience in the automation industry.

Opto 22 951-695-3028

Topics covered in this article