Are we like this only?

Understanding (and shaping) India

Idea: RFID for traffic rewards and penalties

In my previous post, I suggested a technology-enabled idea for rewarding good behaviour at traffic lights. The basic idea is to use RFID to detect which vehicles stopped at red lights and reward them for their good behaviour with reward points which they can redeem at toll booths and in public transport. My wife (and sounding board) had one pertinent question: Who would pay for all this equipment and rewards?

I thought it would be worthwhile to elaborate on the idea some more. Firstly, the reward should only go the vehicles at the head of each lane and not to those stuck behind the guy who decides to stop for the light. The next thing to do is to impose a fine for each violation. This results in a reduction of your accumulated points by the fine amount. But what happens when your reward balance is negative?

Collection would be a problem in India because the RFID needs to be mapped to a genuine address. To overcome this, I propose that RFID readers are installed at each fuel station and that you get automatically billed to clear your negative balance the next time you go to a gas station to fill fuel.

To answer the question about who would pay for it. Well it would be paid for through road taxes, much like we are paying for the police force and for traffic lights. The penalties collected would offset the rewards. Initially I expect that the penalties collected would be much greater than the rewards but with time (if the incentives are well designed) people would violate traffic lights less and penalties would not be enough to pay for the rewards. Once people have been conditioned to obey traffic lights the rewards can be lessened.

These RFIDs can serve multiple other purposes too like automatic payments at toll booths, paying for parking and tracking stolen cars (much like a Lo-Jack). The main downside that I see is that RFID readers cost quite a lot (by my guess about 10,000 per RFID reader if bought in bulk) and installing it at every traffic light might get quite expensive.

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January 19, 2010 - Posted by | incentives, india, mumbai, traffic

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