Toll fee system and method

Abstract

A toll fee tracking system comprising a toll authority adapted to collect data associated with at least one toll fee tracking device and a toll rental entity adapted to communicate with the toll authority and a third part entity. This Abstract is provided to comply with rules requiring an Abstract that allows a searcher or other reader to quickly ascertain subject matter of the technical disclosure. This Abstract is submitted with the understanding that it will not be used to interpret or limit the scope or meaning of the claims.

Claims

1 . A toll fee tracking system comprising: a toll authority adapted to collect data associated with at least one toll fee tracking device; and a toll rental entity adapted to communicate with said toll authority and a third part entity. 2 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said toll authority comprises: toll gates equipped with toll fee tracking device readers; at least one processor, wherein said at least one processor includes a bi-directional data communications link; and at least one database. 3 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said toll rental entity comprises: a toll authority interface adapted to communicate with said toll authority; at least one database; and a third party entity interface adapted to communicate with said third party entity. 4 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said third party entity comprises: at least one rental point-of-sale (POS) system; at least one invoice unit; and at least one processor. 5 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said toll rental entity comprises a stand alone unit. 6 . The system of claim 5 , wherein said toll rental entity comprises a server. 7 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said communication between said toll authority and said toll rental entity comprises pulling said data from said toll authority. 8 . The system of claim 7 , wherein said communication between said toll authority and said toll rental entity comprises pushing said data to said toll rental entity. 9 . The system of claim 8 , wherein said communication between said toll authority and said toll rental entity occurs in real-time. 10 . The system of claim 9 , wherein said communication between said toll authority and said toll rental entity occurs at predefined regular intervals. 11 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said communication between said toll rental entity and said third party entity comprises pushing said data to said third party entity. 12 . The system of claim 11 , wherein said communication between said toll rental entity and said third party entity occurs in real-time. 13 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said toll rental entity is adapted to be integrated within said third party entity. 14 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said data includes vehicle-class-identifiers, lane traffic activity, toll fee tracking device identification data, and toll fee data. 15 . The system of claim 1 , wherein said at least one toll fee tracking devices comprises a radio frequency integrated device (RFID) transponder. 16 . The system of claim 15 , wherein said RFID transponder comprises transponder identification data. 17 . The system of claim 16 , wherein said transponder identification data identifies a toll rental entity account with a toll authority account. 18 . A method for toll fee tracking, the method comprising; collecting, at a toll authority, data associated with at least one toll fee tracking device; storing said data in at least one database of said toll authority; communicating, via a toll rental entity, said data to a third party entity. 19 . The method of claim 18 , said toll authority comprises: toll gates equipped with toll fee tracking device readers; at least one processor, wherein said at least one processor includes a bi-directional data communications link; and at least one database. 20 . The method of claim 18 , wherein said toll rental entity comprises: a toll authority interface adapted to communicate with said toll authority; at least one database; and a third party entity interface adapted to communicate with said third party entity. 21 . The method of claim 18 , wherein said third party entity comprises: at least one rental point-of-sale (POS) system; at least one invoice unit; and at least one processor. 22 . The method of claim 18 , wherein said toll rental entity comprises a stand alone unit. 23 . The method of claim 18 , wherein said step of communicating between said toll authority and said toll rental entity comprises pulling said data from said toll authority. 24 . The method of claim 23 , wherein said step of communicating between said toll authority and said toll rental entity comprises pushing said data to said toll rental entity. 25 . The method of claim 24 , wherein said step of communicating occurs in real-time. 26 . The method of claim 24 , wherein said step of communicating occurs at predefined regular intervals. 27 . The method of claim 18 , wherein said toll rental entity is adapted to be integrated within said third party entity. 28 . The method of claim 27 , wherein said data includes vehicle-class-identifiers, lane traffic activity, toll fee tracking device identification data, and toll fee data. 29 . The method of claim 18 , wherein said at least one toll fee tracking devices comprises a radio frequency integrated device (RFID) transponder. 30 . A toll rental entity server for communicating data between a toll authority and a third party entity, the server comprising: a first interface for communicating with said toll authority; at least one database; a second interface for communicating with said third party entity; and wherein said communication between said toll authority and said third party entity occurs in real-time.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS [0001] This application claims priority from and incorporates by reference the entire disclosure of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/569,779, which was filed on May 10, 2004. This application further claims priority from and incorporates by reference the entire disclosure of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/657,235, which was filed on Feb. 28, 2005. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION [0002] 1. Technical Field [0003] The present invention relates generally to toll fee tracking systems and methods and, more particularly, but not by way of limitation, to toll fee tracking systems and methods for automatic, non-contact, high-speed toll fee tracking of vehicular tolls associated with a toll tracking device used by vehicle operators. [0004] 2. History of Related Art [0005] The crowding of highways within metropolitan areas has resulted in the development of additional traffic arteries known as toll roads. Toll roads have become increasingly popular, however, they require the payment of a toll fee for use by vehicular occupants. The collection of tolls by conventional means has had a negative effect upon highway throughput and safety. Congestion and long backups on toll plazas are becoming more common. Such conditions involve a significant economic cost, through lost time and reduced productivity. Moreover, serious accidents at toll plazas, caused by operators or mechanical failures, have also increased in frequency. [0006] Certain toll authorities have attempted to respond to these problems by providing coin-operated toll collection devices, or by instituting a toll-plate system in which toll-takers visually inspect each incoming vehicle for an appropriate toll plate or sticker. Coin operated toll collection systems, however, do little to increase throughput, and are susceptible to fraud through the use of counterfeit coins. Toll-plate systems suffer the same deficiencies, requiring each vehicle to slow sharply while entering the visual inspection area. In later years, a development ensued that revolutionized toll road travel. This was the development of the toll fee tracking device. [0007] One example of a toll fee tracking device is set forth and shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,546,241 issued Oct. 8, 1985. This patent relates to an electronic identification and recognition system that includes a portable card having a circuit therein for generating and transmitting an identifying signal. The identifying signal includes predetermined frequency pulses. The card functions in cooperation with a reader which radiates a radio frequency carrier signal received by an antenna in the card. This signal is used both to power the circuit of the card and to provide the basic frequency signal which is modified to generate secondary frequency signals which are transmitted back to the reader in a predetermined sequence identifying the card. [0008] Today, those individuals who frequently use toll roads are now prone to the purchase of toll fee tracking device. The toll fee tracking device allows the vehicular occupant to bypass the cash only toll gate and, in many instances, the vehicle can maintain its normal speed as it traverses the toll gate wherein the passage of the toll fee tracking device is recorded. The popularity of the toll fee tracking device has expanded to the point that the normal user of the toll fee tracking device can be frustrated by the lines at toll gates when the toll fee tracking device is not available. Unavailability of a toll fee tracking device can be for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the use of rental cars. [0009] The rental car business is worldwide and continually expanding. Toll fee tracking devices are not, however, as known to the inventors hereof, available in rental cars. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that the charges for the toll fee tracking device are not typically generated in a manner allowing billing of the toll fee tracking device event during the duration of some car rentals. Typically toll fee tracking device invoices are delivered on a monthly basis while the toll fee data is not processed in a real-time. For business travelers, paying tolls in a rental car usually involves waiting at a toll gate with a live operator so that a receipt may be generated for later expense report purposes. Monthly toll fee invoices to car rental agencies reflecting use of a toll fee tracking device in a given vehicle over a period of time would inherently create a plethora of problems, not the least of which would be collection of toll fees by a vehicle renter who has long since turned in his or her expense report. Moreover, the current economic system for rental agencies typically requires that the entire financial transaction be completed at the time of turning in the rental car, unless some damage has occurred relative to the use thereof. Therefore, there is a need for a method and system facilitating use of, and financial accountability for, a toll fee tracking device used by vehicle operators such as, for example, rental car users. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION [0010] A toll fee tracking system comprising a toll authority adapted to collect data associated with at least one toll fee tracking device and a toll rental entity adapted to communicate with the toll authority and a third part entity. [0011] A method for toll fee tracking, the method comprising collecting, at a toll authority, data associated with at least one toll fee tracking device. The method further includes storing the data in at least one database of the toll authority and communicating, via a toll rental entity, the data to a third party entity. [0012] A toll rental entity server for communicating data between a toll authority and a third party entity, the server comprising a first interface for communicating with the toll authority. The server further includes at least one database and a second interface for communicating with the third party entity. The communication between said toll authority and the third party entity occurs in real-time or near real-time. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [0013] A more complete understanding of the present invention may be obtained by reference to the following Detailed Description of Illustrative Embodiments of the Invention, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying Drawings, wherein: [0014] FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating an exit of a toll road in which an automatic toll collection system is installed; [0015] FIG. 2 illustrates a control device installed on an electronic toll collection lane; [0016] FIG. 3 illustrates an electronic toll fee tracking device installed in each vehicle; [0017] FIG. 4 illustrates a schematic block diagram of the toll fee tracking device; [0018] FIG. 5A illustrates a block diagram of a toll fee system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; [0019] FIG. 5B illustrates a block diagram of a toll fee system in accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention; [0020] FIG. 5C illustrates a block diagram of a wireless system utilized in conjunction with the present invention; [0021] FIG. 5D illustrates a block diagram of a wireless system utilized in conjunction with an alternate embodiment of the present invention; [0022] FIG. 6A illustrates a detailed block diagram of a toll fee system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; [0023] FIG. 6B illustrates a detailed block diagram of the toll fee system in accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention; [0024] FIG. 7 illustrates a block diagram of a portion of the toll fee system of the present invention; [0025] FIG. 8 illustrates a status diagram of a toll fee tracking device installed in each vehicle; and [0026] FIG. 9 illustrates a process flow diagram in accordance with the present invention. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION [0027] Embodiment(s) of the invention will now be described more fully with reference to the accompanying Drawings. The invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiment(s) set forth herein. The invention should only be considered limited by the claims as they now exist and the equivalents thereof. [0028] FIG. 1 illustrates two Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) lanes 102 . In each of the ETC lanes 102 , tolls are automatically collected from each vehicle along the lanes 102 through radio communication between a toll fee tracking device (e.g., a radio frequency integrated device (RFID) transponder) installed in the vehicle and a toll collection unit installed on each ETC lane 102 . The toll collection units are typically owned by a toll authority and are situated on toll authority property. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention can be practiced in connection with roadways having additional lanes, including multi-lane divided highways, bridges, and tunnels. As one skilled in the art will appreciate the invention can also be practiced in connection with numerous other transport systems such as, for example, railways and waterways. [0029] On each ETC lane 102 , a vehicle type identifying device 104 , a license plate monitor camera 106 , an antenna 108 , a vehicle detector 110 , and a display 112 are arranged. The vehicle type identifying device 104 identifies the type of a vehicle passing thereby. The license plate monitor camera 106 captures an image of a license plate of the vehicle to read a license plate number out of the image. The vehicle detector 110 may be, for example, a photoelectric cell for optically sensing the presence of a vehicle and generating a VEHICLE PRESENT signal. [0030] The automatic toll collection system includes a control device 200 , as shown in FIG. 2 , one for each ETC lane 102 . The control device 200 has a lane control computer 202 which controls operations of the vehicle type identifying device 104 , the license plate monitor camera 106 , and a toll collecting unit 204 . The control device 200 receives information signals from the vehicle detector 110 indicating the passing of the vehicle. The lane control computer communicates with a toll booth computer 206 . The toll booth computer 206 communicates with a network 208 for transmission of information. [0031] FIG. 3 illustrates a toll fee tracking device 300 installed in each vehicle passing through either of the ETC lanes 102 . As an exemplary embodiment, a radio frequency integrated device (RFID) transponder is utilized as the toll fee tracking device 300 . Each vehicle is identified using the RFID transponder 300 . The RFID transponder 300 includes a microchip attached to an antenna 302 . The antenna 302 may be, for example, incorporated into the transponder 300 itself or a receptacle may be provided to attach to a conventional window mounted antenna, similar to those employed in connection with cellular telephone devices. The microchip contains information that identifies a particular toll rental entity account with a toll authority account. Each RFID transponder 300 is identified by a unique identification number (e.g., transponder Id). The RFID transponder 300 further includes circuitry for establishing a radio communication between the RFID transponder 300 and the toll collecting unit through the antenna 302 . [0032] FIG. 4 illustrates a schematic block diagram 400 of the toll fee tracking device 300 (i.e., the transponder) as illustrated in FIG. 3 . The transponder 300 includes an antenna 302 , a transceiver 402 , and a control circuit 405 . The transceiver 402 establishes radio communications between the transponder 300 and the toll collection unit 204 ( FIG. 2 ) through the antenna 302 . The control circuit 405 further includes a processor 405 a, a mask ROM 405 b, and an EEPROM 405 c. The processor 405 a performs the various programs stored in the mask ROM 405 b. The EEPROM 405 c stores therein transponder identification number and status data. The processor 405 a may be, for example, an 8086 microprocessor or an 8051 microcontroller, or any other processor capable of executing the functions described above. [0033] The transponder 300 may also includes a battery 407 and a power supply circuit 408 . The power supply circuit 408 supplies power to the components of the transponder 300 . For exemplary purposes, a transponder 300 powered by a battery 407 is shown. The RFID transponder 300 may be, for example, an active transponder or a passive transponder. Passive transponders do not require a battery to derive power for operation. Passive transponders derive power to operate from the electric field generated by the passive transponder. In addition, passive transponders are long lasting and support multiple frequency ranges. However, active transponders have a battery for deriving power for operation and support only one frequency. According to exemplary embodiments of the present invention, the RFID transponder 300 may be placed on interior region of the vehicle, for example, on a windshield of the vehicle. According to other exemplary embodiments of the present invention, the RFID transponder 300 may be placed on an exterior region of the vehicle, for example, on the roof or the license plate of the vehicle. [0034] FIG. 5A illustrates a block diagram 500 A of a toll fee system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The system 500 A includes a toll authority 502 , a toll rental entity 504 , and a third party entity 506 . The toll rental entity 504 interfaces with both a toll authority 502 and a third party entity 506 . When a vehicle having a valid RFID transponder 300 passes through a toll gate of the toll authority 502 , the transponder 300 is read by the toll gate of the toll authority 502 . The toll authority 502 collects data such as an identifier and toll fee assessed and allows access to at least a subset of the toll data. The toll rental entity 504 or the third party entity 506 that utilizes the toll rental entity 504 within the third party entity's 506 existing system may access at least a subset of the data collected by the toll authority 502 . The data which includes information related to the fee charged to a particular transponder 300 may be passed from the toll rental entity 502 to the third party entity 504 in real-time or near real-time such that the vehicle operators are charged for any toll related charges. The vehicle operator may be, for example, a rental vehicle operator, an operator of a leased vehicle or the like. In short, the toll rental entity 504 acts as a communication channel between the toll authority 502 and the third party entity 506 for forwarding data from the toll authority 502 to the third party entity 506 in a real-time or near real-time fashion. [0035] FIG. 5B illustrates an alternate embodiment of the toll fee system 500 B in accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention. The toll rental entity 504 may be integrated into an existing operating system of the third party entity 506 . The third party entity 506 may request data directly from the toll authority 502 . The third party entity 506 then utilizes the toll rental entity 504 to store data and reconcile accounts in a similar manner as that noted above with respect to FIG. 5A with the exception of transmitting and requesting data between the stand-alone toll rental entity 504 and the third party entity 606 . [0036] FIG. 5C illustrates a block diagram of a wireless system utilized in conjunction with the present invention. Although all portions of the system of FIGS. 5C and 5 D (described in detail below) are shown communicating via wireless links, it will understood by one skilled in the art that one or more portions of the system may be communicated via a wired network or other technology. In a similar manner to that of FIGS. 5A and 5B , communications between the toll authority 502 , toll rental entity 504 , and the third party entity 506 may be communicated via a request and response scenario, or via a push/pull scenario. In both scenarios, the data may be requested or sent in real-time or at some predefined regular intervals. [0037] Referring to FIG. 5C , the toll rental entity 504 may request and pull data from the toll authority 502 via a wireless link. In an alternate embodiment, the toll authority 502 may push/transmit data from the toll authority 502 to the toll rental entity 504 . The toll rental entity 504 may then transmit the data to the third party entity 506 . In an alternate embodiment, the third party entity 506 may request specific data from the toll rental entity 504 , which may thereafter transmit the requested data to the third party entity 506 . [0038] FIG. 5D illustrates a block diagram of a wireless system utilized in conjunction with an alternate embodiment of the present invention. As noted above with respect to FIG. 5C , toll data may be requested and pulled from the toll authority 502 by the toll rental entity 504 . Alternatively, the toll authority 502 may push the toll data to the toll rental entity 504 . The toll rental entity 504 may then transmit the data to the third party entity 506 to perform other operations such as, for example, billing, account reconciliation etc. Some or all the communications between the toll authority 502 , and the toll rental entity 504 and/or third party entity 506 may be via, for example, a wireless telecommunications network, wired networks, or other technology. [0039] FIG. 6A illustrates a detailed block diagram of a toll fee system 600 A in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The toll fee system 600 A provides information and records for accurate accounting of traffic activity and toll transactions for all transponders 300 having valid toll rental entity accounts. The toll fee system 600 A performs various tasks such as, for example, monitoring toll collection, transferring toll collection data to various components of the system, and monitoring traffic activity. The toll fee system 600 A expedites the toll fee process and completes the entire financial transaction at the time the vehicle operator such as, for example, a rental vehicle user returns the rental vehicle. [0040] The toll fee system 600 A maintains records of all toll transactions for all transponders 300 having valid toll rental entity accounts. These records are maintained and formatted for real-time or near real-time transmission to various elements within the toll fee system 600 A. The toll fee system 600 A includes a toll authority 502 , a toll rental entity 504 , and a third party entity 506 . The toll authority 502 includes a plurality of toll gates 508 which are equipped with transponder reader units. The toll authority 502 further includes a processor 512 and a communications link 513 for bi-directional data communications with the toll rental entity 504 . The processor 512 may be, for example, a conventional microcomputer or minicomputer, depending upon the size and the data-handling requirements of the toll fee system 600 A. The processor 512 is interconnected to the transponder reader units 508 and a database 514 . The processor 512 gathers toll fee tracking data from the transponder reader units 508 and stores the data into the database 514 . The data is structured and transferred to the toll rental entity 504 using, for example, SOAP/XML. The database can be, for example, an Oracle™ database, a MS Access™ database, MS SQL, IBM DB2, and the like. The toll fee tracking data may include, for example, vehicle-class-identifiers, transaction time, transaction date, lane traffic activity information, transponder identification number, toll gate identification, vehicle travel direction and the amount of toll charged to the user. For simplicity, only one processor 512 and one database 514 is shown, however, a plurality of processors and databases may be employed by the toll authority 502 . [0041] The toll fee system 600 A further includes a toll rental entity 504 . The toll rental entity 504 acts as a communication channel between the toll authority 502 and the third party entity 506 for forwarding data from the toll authority 502 to the third party entity 506 in a real-time or near real-time fashion. The toll rental entity 504 may be, for example, a server capable of performing the various tasks which will be described later with respect to FIG. 7 . The toll rental entity 504 includes a toll authority interface 516 , a toll rental entity database 518 , and a third party entity interface 520 . The components 516 , 518 , and 520 as illustrated are for exemplary purposes. A detailed illustration of the various components and their functions will be shown and described later with respect to FIG. 7 . The toll authority interface 516 may be, for example, a processor similar to the one disclosed earlier. The toll authority interface 516 is interconnected to the toll rental entity database 518 which in turn is connected to the third party entity interface 520 . The toll authority interface 516 is adapted to send a request message to the processor 512 on the communications link 513 . The request message is transmitted from the toll authority interface 516 to the processor 512 to obtain toll fee tracking data. For example, the request message may be transmitted at some predefined regular interval (e.g., one every two minutes) or continuously in real-time or near real-time. The processor 512 receives the request from the toll authority interface 516 and grants permission for the data to be pulled by the toll authority interface 516 residing within the toll rental entity 504 . The data pulled by the toll rental entity 504 is stored in a data storage device such as, for example, a database 518 of the toll rental entity 504 . The database can be, for example, an Oracle™ database, a MS Access™ database, MS SQL, IBM DB2, and the like. The toll authority interface 516 is also adapted to receive data from the toll authority 502 and convert the data into a format which is compatible for storage into the toll rental entity database 518 . [0042] The toll fee system 600 A further includes a third party entity 506 . The third party entity 506 includes a rental point-of-sale (POS) system 522 , a customer invoice unit 524 , and a third party entity processor 526 . The third party entity interface 520 accesses the data from the database 518 and transmits the data to the third party entity POS system 522 within the third party entity 506 . The data is then provided to the customer through a customer invoice unit 524 where the customer is charged the fee corresponding to the toll usage along with any relevant service charges and/or taxes. The customer invoice unit 524 may be, for example, a computer having printing capabilities. The customer invoice may be, for example, a printed invoice, an invoice which may be electronically transmitted to the customer, or the like. The rental authority processor 526 may also send a request message to the third party entity interface 520 requesting specific data corresponding to a particular customer or data relating to a particular time period. This data is transmitted to the rental POS 522 from the third party entity interface 520 . [0043] FIG. 6B illustrates a detailed block diagram of a toll fee system 600 B in accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, the toll authority interface 516 resides within the toll authority 502 . The toll authority interface 516 interfaces with a toll rental entity listener 517 within the toll rental entity 504 . The toll rental entity listener 517 is adapted to receive data from the toll authority interface 516 and convert the data into a format which is compatible for storage into the toll rental entity database 518 . In this embodiment, there is no need to send a request message from the toll rental entity 504 to obtain the data. The toll fee tracking data is periodically or continuously pushed from the toll authority interface 516 to the toll rental entity listener 517 . [0044] FIG. 7 illustrates a detailed block diagram of the toll rental entity 504 of the toll fee system of FIGS. 6A and 6B . The toll rental entity 504 may be, for example, a server for performing data analysis and data dissemination. The toll rental entity server 504 may include a plurality of processors such as, for example, a toll rental entity processor 702 and a batch processor 706 . The processors 702 and 706 may be, for example, software systems or software components. In an embodiment of the present invention, the toll rental entity processor 702 is adapted to receive toll data from the toll authority 502 at some predefined regular intervals (e.g., every two minutes). In an embodiment, data transmission between the toll authority 502 and the toll rental entity server 504 may take place using, for example, XML, or any language specific formats. In another embodiment, data transmission between the toll authority 502 and the toll rental entity server 504 may take place using connection oriented or connection less communication protocols such as, for example, HTTP, TCP/IP, FTP etc. [0045] The toll data is received by the toll rental entity processor 702 . The toll rental entity processor 702 is adapted to analyze and disseminate the toll data and forward a request to at least one of the plurality of function modules 708 , 710 , 712 , and 714 . The request may be, for example, analyzing the toll data associated with a particular transponder and calculating an amount to be charged to a customer associated with the particular transponder. This function may be performed by, for example, function module 1708 . The request may also include, for example, maintaining and updating toll rental entity accounts. This function may be performed by, for example, function module 710 . The request may also include, for example, bill handling for updating charges associated with a particular transponder 300 . This function may be performed by, for example, function module 712 . Other functions may also be performed by the function modules 798 , 710 , 712 , and 714 which may include, for example, payment handling, error handling, and the like. The plurality of function modules 708 , 710 , 712 , and 714 are associated with a plurality of databases 716 , 718 , 720 , and 722 , respectively. The databases 716 , 718 , 720 , and 722 are adapted to store data calculated by the function modules 708 , 710 , 712 , and 714 . The databases are connected to a third party entity interface 520 which is adapted to transmit information to the third party entity 506 . The databases 716 , 718 , 720 and 722 may be, for example, Oracle™ databases, MS Access™ databases, MS SQL, IBM DB2, and the like. The transmission of data from the toll authority 502 , the toll rental entity server 504 , and the third part authority 506 takes place in a real-time or near real-time fashion. In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, the batch processor 706 is adapted to receive the toll data from the toll authority using connection less communications protocols such as, for example FTP. The toll data is received by the batch processor 706 at some predefined regular intervals (e.g., every hour). The toll data is transferred from the batch processor to the toll rental entity processor 702 for analysis and dissemination as disclosed earlier. [0046] FIG. 8 illustrates a status diagram of the RFID transponder 300 as illustrated in FIG. 3 . The transponder 300 is in a ready state 802 when a vehicle is ready to be rented to a customer. The ready state 802 indicates that the transponder 300 has already been assigned to a particular vehicle being operated by, for example, a rental vehicle user. [0047] When the customer rents the rental vehicle from the third party entity 506 , the customer has the option of accepting the automatic toll payment service provided by the toll rental entity 504 . If the customer denies the automatic toll payment service, the transponder 300 goes into an inactive state 804 . The transponder 300 remains in the inactive state 804 until the customer returns the car to the third party entity 506 or the customer uses a toll gate of the toll authority 502 . Upon using the toll gate, the transponder 300 goes into an active state 808 . Once the customer returns the car to the third party entity 506 , the transponder 300 enters in a closed state 806 after which the status of the transponder will be changed for another customer. [0048] However, if the customer accepts the automatic toll payment service, the transponder 300 goes into a ready state 802 . When the customer uses the toll service for the first time, the system applies a minimum service charge and the status of the transponder 300 is changed to an active 808 state followed by the transponder 300 being changed to an inuse state 810 . [0049] In a situation when the transponder 300 is inactive and the customer uses the automatic toll payment service, the system applies a minimum service charge and updates the status of the transponder to active state 808 and in-use state 810 , respectively. [0050] When the customer returns the car to the third party entity 506 , the third party entity 506 obtains transaction details of the transponder 300 using the toll rental entity listener 517 within the toll rental entity 504 . Once the account is billed, the status of the transponder is changed to closed state 806 . The closed state 806 indicates that the rental vehicle has been returned to the third party entity and the vehicle operator has been charged for the services utilized. Now the transponder 300 is ready to be reassigned. If for some reason the transponder 300 is malfunctioning, the transponder 300 returns to the closed state 806 followed by the transponder 300 going into an expired state 812 . [0051] FIG. 9 illustrates in detail a process flow 900 in accordance with the present invention. Although steps of the flow 900 are depicted in a particular sequence, it will be appreciated by persons of ordinary skill in the art that certain steps of the process need not necessarily follow a strict sequence but can be rearranged and/or performed simultaneously. The flow starts at step 902 . At step 904 , transponder data is read by the transponder readers 508 within the toll authority 502 . The data may be, for example, vehicle-class-identifiers, transaction time, transaction date, lane traffic activity information, transponder identification number, toll gate identification, vehicle travel direction and the amount of toll usage to the user. At step 906 , it is determined if the transponder identification data corresponds to the transponder identification data associated with the toll rental entity transponder. If it is determined that the transponder identification data does not corresponds to the transponder identification data associated with a toll rental entity transponder, the flow proceeds to step 910 . At step 910 , the data is processed by the toll authority 502 and the flow returns to step 902 . [0052] However, if it is determined at step 906 that the transponder identification data corresponds to the transponder identification data associated with the toll rental entity transponder, the process is continued at step 908 . At step 908 , the data is collected at a database 514 within the toll authority 502 . [0053] At step 912 , it is determined if a request to share the data has been received by the processor 512 of the toll authority 502 . The request may be sent by the toll authority interface 516 residing within the toll rental entity 504 . The request may be, for example, a request message for allowing data to be pulled by the toll rental entity 504 . For example, the request message may be transmitted at some predefined regular interval (e.g., one every two minutes) or continuously in real-time or near real-time. If it is determined that a request has been received by the processor 512 within the toll authority 502 , the process is continued at step 916 . At step 916 , the data is pulled by the toll rental entity 504 and the process is continued at step 918 . However, if it is determined at step 912 that a request has not been received, the process continues at step 914 . At step 914 , the toll authority pushes the data to the toll rental entity and the process is continued at step 918 . At step 918 , the data from steps 914 and 916 is stored in a database 518 within the toll rental entity 520 . [0054] At step 920 , it is determined if a particular transponder associated with a user 300 is being used for the first time. If it is determined that the transponder is being used for the first time, the flow continues at step 922 . At step 922 , the user is charged a service fee and the process continues at step 923 . At step 932 , the transponder 300 is activated and the process continues at step 924 . However, if it is determined at step 920 that the particular transponder 300 has been used before, the process continues at step 924 . At step 924 , the toll data usage is updated by processors within the toll rental entity 504 . The process is continued at step 926 where the data is pushed from the toll rental entity 504 to the third party entity 506 . At step 927 , the transponder 300 is closed for further transaction until it is reassigned. At step 928 , the user is provided with an invoice with charges related to the toll usage along with the charges associated with the use of the third party entity services such as, for example, charges related to vehicle rental. The process ends at step 930 . The data transmission between the toll authority 502 , the toll rental entity 504 , and the third party entity 506 occurs at some predefined regular interval (e.g., one every two minutes) or continuously in real-time or near real-time. [0055] It should be emphasized that the terms “comprise”, “comprises”, and “comprising”, when used herein, are taken to specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps, or components, but do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, components or groups thereof. [0056] The previous Detailed Description is of embodiment(s) of the invention. The scope of the invention should not necessarily be limited by this Description. The scope of the invention is instead defined by the following claims and the equivalents thereof.

Description

Topics

Download Full PDF Version (Non-Commercial Use)

Patent Citations (91)

    Publication numberPublication dateAssigneeTitle
    US-6278935-B1August 21, 2001Navigation Technologies Corp.Method and system for providing instructions about tollways with a navigation system
    US-6342844-B1January 29, 2002Alexander RozinTwo-way radio-based electronic toll collection method and system for highway
    US-6683956-B1January 27, 2004Hitachi, Ltd.Encrypting conversion apparatus, decrypting conversion apparatus, cryptographic communication system, and electronic toll collection apparatus
    US-6390365-B1May 21, 2002Kabushiki Kaisha ToshibaToll collection system, onboard units and toll collection method
    US-6737986-B2May 18, 2004Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.Electronic toll collection system
    US-2007124198-A1May 31, 2007Robinson Benjamin P, Debbie Lemon, Balachandran Sarath KSystem, method and computer readable medium for billing tolls
    US-6252524-B1June 26, 2001Mitsubishi Denki Kabushiki KaishaVehicle-mounted unit for a toll collection system
    US-6175800-B1January 16, 2001Xanavi Informatics CorporationRoute searching device
    US-6744377-B1June 01, 2004Mitsubishi Denki Kabushiki KaishaVehicle-mounted apparatus of a dedicated short range communications system
    US-4510495-AApril 09, 1985Cornell Research Foundation, Inc.Remote passive identification system
    US-6985931-B2January 10, 2006Eric Morgan DowlingFederated multiprotocol communication
    US-6904362-B2June 07, 2005Aisin Aw Co., Ltd.Route guidance system, information delivery center, and vehicular route guidance apparatus
    US-6198987-B1March 06, 2001Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Method and a multi-functional apparatus for determining the class of a vehicle
    US-6181259-B1January 30, 2001Nec CorporationVehicle-mounted device with sleep function for use in road-to-vehicle communication system
    US-2005170825-A1August 04, 2005Dowling Eric M.Federated multiprotocol communication
    US-6684155-B1January 27, 2004Sin Etke Technology Co., Ltd.Vehicle management system
    US-6340934-B1January 22, 2002Mitsubishi Denki Kabushiki KaishaVehicle-relevant onboard ETC-information communication control apparatus
    US-6937162-B2August 30, 2005Denso CorporationIn-vehicle apparatus and service providing system
    US-6920379-B2July 19, 2005Renesas Technology Corp.Vehicle-onboard DSRC apparatus
    US-6218963-B1April 17, 2001Hitachi, Ltd.Time management system for passing vehicles
    US-6542815-B1April 01, 2003Denso CorporationRoute setting device and navigation device
    US-4525713-AJune 25, 1985Lockheed Electronics Co., Inc.Electronic tag identification system
    US-6373402-B1April 16, 2002American Traffic Systems, Inc.Method and apparatus for photographing traffic in an intersection
    US-6252523-B1June 26, 2001Combitech Traffic Systems AbMethod and a system for registering vehicle fees
    US-6756915-B2June 29, 2004Lg Electronics Inc.Geographic information service apparatus and method using a DSRC network
    US-2003115095-A1June 19, 2003Fujitsu LimitedToll road toll paying method and apparatus using a portable terminal, and a storage medium thereof
    US-2005097018-A1May 05, 2005Yoshiaki TakidaToll road charge collection system using artificial satellite, charge collecting machine, and charge collecting method
    US-6683580-B2January 27, 2004Nec CorporationAntenna apparatus and electronic toll collection system and electronic toll collection method using the same
    US-2005005488-A1January 13, 2005Burke Malcolm Anton McmanusMotor vehicle decal display system
    US-6388579-B1May 14, 2002Intelligent Vehicle Systems, Inc.Apparatus and system for remotely updating and monitoring the status of a vehicle
    US-2007124197-A1May 31, 2007Rent-A-Toll, Ltd.System, method and computer readable medium for billing
    US-2005119010-A1June 02, 2005Daisuke YasukawaTraffic information providing method and system therefor, and payment method for toll road fee
    US-6191705-B1February 20, 2001Mark Iv Industries, LimitedRadio frequency highway management system
    US-6233519-B1May 15, 2001Mitsubishi Denki Kabushiki KaishaCar-mounted equipment
    US-6390429-B1May 21, 2002Patrick BrincatDevice for securing an automatic toll-taking transceiver onto a motorcycle
    US-5396417-AMarch 07, 1995Capitol Cities/Abc, Inc.Product distribution equipment and method
    US-6411889-B1June 25, 2002Mitsubishi Denki Kabushiki Kaisha, Massachusetts Institute Of TechnologyIntegrated traffic monitoring assistance, and communications system
    US-6087963-AJuly 11, 2000Hitachi, Ltd.Vehicle-mounted device for automatic charge receipt system
    US-6883710-B2April 26, 2005Amerasia International Technology, Inc.Article tracking system and method
    US-2004162788-A1August 19, 2004Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.Receipt-issuing device
    US-7053793-B2May 30, 2006Ntt Docomo, Inc.System for notifying toll charge information
    US-2005169228-A1August 04, 2005Dowling Eric M.Federated multiprotocol communication
    US-6538580-B2March 25, 2003Combitech Traffic Systems AbMethod and device for registering the outer characteristics of a vehicle in a road toll unit
    US-6275552-B1August 14, 2001Denso CorporationMethod and system for data communications using synchronizing signals of different data length
    US-6195019-B1February 27, 2001Denso CorporationVehicle classifying apparatus and a toll system
    US-2005034340-A1February 17, 2005Burke Malcolm Anton McmanusMotor vehicle decal display system
    US-2004153401-A1August 05, 2004Janos Gila, Wolfgang KonradDual toll system
    US-2005102211-A1May 12, 2005Freeny Charles C.Jr.Proximity service provider system
    US-2002111851-A1August 15, 2002Folkers Joie L.Electronic parking system
    US-6111523-AAugust 29, 2000American Traffic Systems, Inc.Method and apparatus for photographing traffic in an intersection
    US-5525991-AJune 11, 1996Nippondenso Co., Ltd.Mobile object identification system
    US-6774810-B2August 10, 2004Donnelly CorporationRearview mirror assembly incorporating supplemental inflatable restraint system status information display
    US-2005179522-A1August 18, 2005Atle SaegrovCommunication controller for an active transponder
    US-5935190-AAugust 10, 1999American Traffic Systems, Inc.Traffic monitoring system
    US-2005169227-A1August 04, 2005Dowling Eric M.Federated multiprotocol communication
    US-2003046145-A1March 06, 2003Yen-Wu MiaoToll charging system responsive to traveling length and method for operating the same
    US-6181259-B2December 31, 1969
    US-2007124199-A1May 31, 2007Rent-A-Toll, Ltd.System, method and computer readable medium for toll service activation and billing
    US-2005187701-A1August 25, 2005Baney Douglas M.Traffic communication system
    US-6509843-B1January 21, 2003Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.Electronic toll collection system
    US-2003105662-A1June 05, 2003Yoshihiro Koketsu, Tetsuya Tomonaka, Tomokazu Shimoda, Ryosuke Okamoto, Yasuo YoshikawaToll charging system and toll charging method
    US-2002002534-A1January 03, 2002Davis Terry L., Sears John W., Baudoin Yvan Y.Method and system for managing transactions
    US-2005157677-A1July 21, 2005Dowling Eric M.Federated multiprotocol communication
    US-6437706-B2August 20, 2002Hitachi, Ltd.Toll collection system and its communication method
    US-6198913-B1March 06, 2001Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.Automatic wake-up device for radio automatic recognition terminal and communication method using the terminal
    US-6999001-B2February 14, 2006Kabushiki Kaisha ToshibaCard processing system and card processing method on toll road
    US-5602919-AFebruary 11, 1997Texas Instruments IncorporatedSpeedup for monetary transactions using a transponder in conjunction with a smartcard
    US-2005033505-A1February 10, 2005Premier Wireless, Inc.Traffic surveillance and report system
    US-2002067291-A1June 06, 2002Nec CorporationSystem for toll payment and transportation management
    US-2005170824-A1August 04, 2005Dowling Eric M.Federated multiprotocol communication
    US-2002072963-A1June 13, 2002Jonge Wiebren DeTraffic information & pricing (TIP) system
    US-2003067396-A1April 10, 2003Hassett John J.Electronic vehicle toll collection system and method
    US-2005010478-A1January 13, 2005Kelly GravelleSelf-service electronic toll collection unit and system
    US-2005040221-A1February 24, 2005First Usa Bank N.A.System and method for funding a collective account by use of an electronic tag
    US-2002097178-A1July 25, 2002Thomas Warren J., Thomas Lonna M.System and method to attribute, reconcile and account for automated vehicle identification charges irrespective of vehicle ownership
    US-6705521-B1March 16, 2004Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd.Automatic car toll computing and charging method
    US-2003110075-A1June 12, 2003Pioneer CorporationToll collection system, its mobile terminal and toll processing apparatus, terminal processing program for the mobile terminal, and record medium recording the terminal processing program
    US-2002052837-A1May 02, 2002Nicolas BouthorsPayment process and system for transmission and/or service operations within a data packet transmission network
    US-6337639-B1January 08, 2002Kabushiki Kaisha ToshibaToll collection apparatus and toll collection method
    US-2003069784-A1April 10, 2003International Business Machines CorporationIntegrated billing of vehicle-related services using ad-hoc networks
    US-2005159133-A1July 21, 2005Lucent Technologies Inc.Toll payment service via wireless communication networks
    US-2002018005-A1February 14, 2002Seiji FuyamaElectronic toll collection system for toll road
    US-2004046019-A1March 11, 2004Kabushiki Kaisha ToshibaCard processing system and card processing method in toll road
    US-2005071175-A1March 31, 2005Janos Gila, Wolfgang KonradDevice for temporarily overcoming the loss of a satellite navigation signal, for satellite navigation-based dual toll systems
    US-2004083130-A1April 29, 2004Arthur Posner, Posner Roslyn S.Electronic toll collection system and method for rental and leased vehicles
    US-2003109223-A1June 12, 2003Kazumasa ToyamaElectronic toll collection system adapted to plural types of protocols employed by various on-vehicle units
    US-2003112125-A1June 19, 2003Atle SaegrovCommunication controller for an active transponder
    US-6909876-B2June 21, 2005Fujitsu LimitedPortable terminal
    US-2003026430-A1February 06, 2003Makoto Aikawa, Shigeru Hirahata, Kazuo Takaragi, Yoshimichi KudoEncrypting conversion apparatus, decrypting conversion apparatus, cryptographic communication system, and electronic toll collection apparatus
    US-2005168351-A1August 04, 2005Denso CorporationDevice and system for toll payment
    US-6396418-B2May 28, 2002Kabushiki Kaisha ToshibaToll collection system, on board unit and toll collection method

NO-Patent Citations (0)

    Title

Cited By (30)

    Publication numberPublication dateAssigneeTitle
    NL-2006653-COctober 23, 2012Runia Consulting B V, Warnar Consulting B VAccess system and method for providing a vehicle access to an area.
    US-2004117216-A1June 17, 2004International Business Machines CorporationSystem and method for accessibility insurance coverage management
    US-2004117279-A1June 17, 2004International Business Machines CorporationSystem and method for electronic accessibility privileges
    US-2008077417-A1March 27, 2008Lazzarino William A, Cameron Bentley, Judith Isabelle Brinkmann, Carr Brian E, Gary Wayne Cunningham, Donohue Terrance J, Kiran Hatti, Natasha Gaye Hrycauk, Klinger Thomas A, Karl Markiewicz, Merri Jean Manetzke, Mckee Wade Arlen, Nesvold Patricia A, Bruce Peck, Dale Rickard, Mandeep Sandhu, Jon Strawn, Wolniak Bradley KSystems and Methods for Citation Management
    US-2008155650-A1June 26, 2008Rabindranath Dutta, Hartley John C, Richard Scott SchwerdtfegerAccessibility Content Copyright Permission
    US-2008270226-A1October 30, 2008Archibald Robert JElectronic toll collection and rental vehicles
    US-2008306778-A1December 11, 2008International Business Machines CorporationAccessibility Insurance Coverage Management
    US-2009055936-A1February 26, 2009Bernd EberstallerMethod and system for the user-specific initialization of identification devices in the field
    US-2012329433-A1December 27, 2012Kenneth Christopher FogartyElectronic toll charge payment system and method
    US-2014352215-A1December 04, 2014James S. BiancoModular Gate System and Installation Method Therefor
    US-2015066605-A1March 05, 2015Rent A Toll, Ltd.Method and system for toll payment service
    US-7480622-B2January 20, 2009International Business Machines CorporationAccessibility insurance coverage management
    US-7774228-B2August 10, 2010Rent A Toll, LtdTransferring toll data from a third party operated transport to a user account
    US-7890358-B2February 15, 2011International Business Machines CorporationAccessibility insurance coverage management
    US-8195506-B2June 05, 2012Rent A Toll, Ltd.System, method and computer readable medium for billing based on a duration of a service period
    US-8363899-B2January 29, 2013Rent A Toll, Ltd.Method and system for processing vehicular violations
    US-8374909-B2February 12, 2013Rent A Toll, Ltd.System, method and computer readable medium for billing based on a duration of a service period
    US-8473332-B2June 25, 2013Rent A Toll, Ltd.Toll fee system and method
    US-8473333-B2June 25, 2013Rent A Toll, Ltd.Toll fee system and method
    US-8738525-B2May 27, 2014Rent A Toll, Ltd.Method and system for processing vehicular violations
    US-8744905-B2June 03, 2014Rent A Toll, Ltd.System, method and computer readable medium for billing tolls
    US-8768753-B2July 01, 2014Rent A Toll, Ltd.System, method and computer readable medium for billing tolls
    US-8768754-B2July 01, 2014Rent-A-Toll, Ltd.Billing a rented third party transport including an on-board unit
    US-9098950-B2August 04, 2015Kapsch Trafficcom AgMethod and system for the user-specific initialization of identification devices in the field
    US-9183548-B2November 10, 2015International Business Machines CorporationAccessibility content copyright permission
    US-9235935-B2January 12, 2016Kenneth Christopher FogartyElectronic toll charge payment system and method
    US-9290896-B2March 22, 2016Control Module, Inc.Modular gate system and installation method therefor
    US-9418487-B2August 16, 2016Ats Tolling LlcBilling a rented third party transport including an on-board unit
    US-9715703-B2July 25, 2017Ats Tolling LlcSystem, method and computer readable medium for billing based on a duration of service period
    WO-2016065110-A1April 28, 2016Fustes ManuelToll payment collection with communication device