Hyderabad International Airport to get India’s first car park enabled with FASTag

FASTag is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag linked to your bank account for faster toll payments.

In an effort to curb congestion and queues, the Hyderabad International Airport is introducing FASTag in its car parking. Passengers and visitors can take advantage of the faster FASTag lanes for entry and exit without having to wait for the payment. This is being done in collaboration with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

These dedicated fast lanes will ensure that there aren’t waiting times since the payment will be automatically done. As the vehicle passes the entry or exit, a sensor will detect and read the radio-frequency identification (RFID) sticker on the vehicles followed by deducting the amount automatically.

The use of FASTag for automatic payments was initially introduced to be used at toll plazas on national and state highways. If you’re clueless on what FASTag is, then here’s a quick primer on it.

FASTag sanctioned by the National Highway Authority of India.

FASTag sanctioned by the National Highway Authority of India.

What is FASTag?

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) sanctioned the Electronic Toll Collection program using FASTag as a pilot project back in 2014. It was implemented for the first time in the Delhi-Mumbai stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral towards the end of 2014. Aimed at making toll plaza payments on highways automatic with the ‘One Nation One Tag’ mission, it will also reduce congestion and sometimes long waiting times at tolls. As already mentioned, this was meant for all the toll plazas at the national highways that would gradually include all state highways as well.

It works by using an RFID chip that’s stuck on a four-wheeled vehicle’s windscreen. Sensors on the FASTag lanes at toll plazas will detect the sensor and automatically deduct the toll fare from the vehicle owner. This means no more waiting at the toll and you could simply slow down and continue driving without having to stop to pay the fare.

The service has been started with ICICI bank and now it is available on Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, IDFC Bank, State Bank of India and Syndicate Bank. A FASTag lane is valid for five years and you have to continue recharging the NHAI payment wallet that will be linked to your bank account. When the fare has been deducted, the user will receive a confirmation over a text message. In the future, you will be able to pay fuel bills and for parking at places enabled with FASTag.

Car dealers are already selling FASTag stickers to people buying new cars since around 2016. Otherwise, you can buy new stickers from NHAI toll plazas where you will need to submit your vehicle’s registration certificate (RC), a recent passport-size photograph of the vehicle owner, and KYC documents depending on whether the tag is meant for commercial or private use. It can also be bought online from Amazon and PayTM.

FASTag stickers can be purchased from PayTM as well. Image: PayTM.

FASTag stickers can be purchased from PayTM as well. Image: PayTM.

FASTag is going to be mandatory next month

Starting from 1 December, FASTag is going to be made mandatory across a total of 525 toll plazas. This means all four-wheelers have to attach FASTag RFID stickers on their vehicle’s windscreens. Failing to do so will result in vehicle owners without the FASTag to pay double the toll fare as a form of penalty. A separate lane will be present at the plazas for non-FASTag vehicles.

Apart from the national highways, it will also include many state highways that will be under the state agency operators. However, not every state highway has equipped the new technology and payment system in tolls which will delay the ‘One Nation One Tag’ dream.

Privacy concerns over FASTag

As reported by The Economic Times, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nithin Gadkari had compared FASTag to Aadhaar at a New Delhi conference. Vehicle owners have to link their mobile numbers to FASTag including their bank account and vehicle’s registration number. What this means is wherever the payment is deducted, a record will be logged. This essentially creates a trace of your journey across different toll plazas. It may sound useful for criminal investigations, however, there’s also the possibility of misuse in case of a data breach. It’s yet another centralised system that will leave a trail of personal information that could be potentially used as a surveillance tool.

While there haven’t been any developments to link FASTag with your Aadhaar account, it won't be surprised if it's made mandatory in the future. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has already sanctioned integration for FASTag with the e-way bill mechanism and it will finalise on 1 April 2020. This will be used to track truck movements and show revenue losses for fraudulent behaviour.

The implementation of FASTag will definitely make commute quicker across toll plazas and parking lots by decreasing congestion. However, privacy concerns will still keep looming around this technology.

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