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Improving Toll Booths (and Fast Food?) for Mobile Users

Here’s a couple random ideas I’m writing out. I have this need to start writing down ideas that come to my head. I feel like I sometimes get these eureka moments at times and if I don’t write them down, no one will ever believe me.

So, one idea that may be in the works, but I have no clue: Removal of Pay Booths

Idea 1: Removal of Pay Booths, Save the States Millions
The ideas here is that, as a society, we are moving almost completely mobile…in the sense that there are more than 285 million mobile phones in the US (according to Wikipedia stats). There’s a large portion of those phones that are smartphones which utilize features such as geolocation. So, why not setup a process whereby drivers register their mobile phone numbers (with some verification process)…regardless of where they live or drive. Then, as part of that process, you allow your phones mobile ID to be shared with the state’s toll booth system. At no time would your phone be able to be tracked (let’s lay that out there now). However, along areas of the road where the toll booths would traditionally stand, there would be a series of sensors along the road surface and the sides of the road, which would recognize the mobile ID of your phone as it approached the “virtual booth.” This would tell the system that Joe Schmoe just entered the toll road. At the end of the toll road or exits, another set of sensors would then recognize when that mobile ID exited. The amount of the toll would automatically be removed the drivers pre-paid account (much like EZPass) on either entry or exit…or both..depending on the toll road.

Of course this doesn’t address scenarios where the person leaves their phone at home, on purpose, or somehow register another person’s phone and bypass verification process. It also doesn’t address the number of jobs that would be lost operating physical toll booths…however those people could be retrained to support the new system in case of errors and misidentifications. But see…this is just an idea…not a final plan.

Idea 2: Really Fast Food
This is far out there, but instead of having to make people drive off the exit and get lost trying to find the fast food joint, fast food companies could build a small “kitchen station” right off the exit ramp which then reconnected directly to the on ramp. Then they build a system where mobile phone users could easily order their food prior to a trip (or whenever) if they know an estimated time as to when they might be near one of the kitchens. Again, they would also allow the fast food company to keep their mobile ID for easy identification.

The person places their order, their mobile ID is sent along with it, and the approximate location from the GPS or cell triangulation. This would give the kitchen an idea as to an approximate time for when the driver might be approaching that kitchen. The kitchen could prepare their order based on the approximate time to when they would be arriving and have that order ready to go. Mobile sensors on the road that are run by the fast food company would pick up the mobile ID of the driver as well to further nail down approximate time remaining till the order is needed to be completed. As the driver exits, he heads to the “kitchen” drive up window, the attendee hands them their order, and then the driver takes off. Money is exchanged through mobile pay service, and the mobile ID/order of the driver is immediately deleted.

However, you could go further and store the mobile ID for another 2 hours, for example, and then if the driver finds that his order is incorrect, they could quickly resend the correct order to the next kitchen on the road…and the order would then be fulfilled, along with any credit back to the driver’s account.

Again, these are just ideas that I’m throwing out there. But I’m thinking of ways to take advantage of mobile devices, location, IDs, and more. You know, “the internet of things.”

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Profile Photo Sam Allgood

I’ve seen some good examples of the ideas, though not the technology:

In Ireland, the toll booths on the highways around Dublin have been removed and replaced with cameras that capture license plate numbers. Signs are posted that you have until a certain time to pay the toll, either on-line or at many service stations / retail stores. As far as using the mobile phone GPS, it would probably be easier to install a chip in the car that could be registered and monitored. I have seen that some some wireless phone services have a site where you can check on traffic flow based on GPS readings of their customers.

Germany has a nice system on the Autobahns that I have wished was replicated in the US since I experienced it in the late ’80s. In a wide medium, they have service stations and also fast-food restaurants so that you have that easy-on/off access. I have always guessed that rest stops in the US are typically spread out away from exits for towns/cities so that people take those exits to use the restrooms of businesses where they will also spend money.

Profile Photo Tina Cluver

I love these ideas! They would make my life easier when I’m out on the road. I especially like the “faster food” idea, although I do take advantage of online and mobile phone ordering whenever possible now. The idea of having the food waiting at the next station would a big plus for me.