Skymeter Corp., a vendor of vehicle location billing services, is getting ready to release software that will allow public sector organizations to charge for parking, insurance and roads based on use.
According to founder and CTO Bern Grush – who also writes a blog called “Grush Hour” — the first version of software is already done. The hardware it will run on is about six weeks from completion, and the system will be ready for trials of several dozen vehicles probably by early fall. Larger trials will be conducted by the end of the year.
“We cracked a very difficult problem known as urban canyon,” Grush explained. “What happens is radio waves come down off the satellite and they’re very weak. By the time they get to the Earth there’s almost nothing left. When they get down here, they hit a building and get deflected, so the signals get lost.
“Say you’re navigating your car and the navigation is off by a few hundred meters. There (was) no way to solve it without a map, but … we’ve solved the urban canyon multipath problem without a map and that piece of math is worth billions of dollars.”
Skymeter’s product suite includes embedded DSP software for a three-in-one, on-board unit (OBU) that meters for any one, two or three of road-pricing, parking-by-satellite, and pay-as-you drive insurance. It also makes back-office systems to generate billing for any combination of road use, parking and distance-based insurance. The company said it will also aggregate anonymous data for mapping, navigation, planning, traffic control and numerous other applications.
Skymeter, said Grush, is the result of Grush’s own search for a better way to pay for parking than currently exists.
“I hate the trouble to pay for parking, so given that was a nuisance to me personally I imagined there was a way it could be handled by a machine,” he said. “I didn’t realize how hard it was.”
Although the idea might not have been new, Grush said he was the first to patent the idea of technology that could be used to charge drivers not only for road use, such as is done on Highway 407 in Toronto, but for parking and for insurance as well.
“It’s the same idea as paying for food by weight; you almost always have far more to eat in a restaurant where you pay a flat fee for all you can eat than when paying by dish or weight,” he says.
Skymeter’s technology is intended for markets in Europe, Asia and the U.S., where reducing traffic congestion has become a pressing issue. It may take a few years before Canada adopts such an approach, he said.