Expansion of the High Speed E-ZPass

If you drive on the freeway, there’s a good chance that you’ve got an E-ZPass – in fact, some have estimated that as many as 80 percent of those who can use the wireless technology do. And it’s no wonder. For more than twenty years, the E-ZPass has saved commuters from the headaches of digging through their wallets and purses for change to pay the highway toll. The pass has even been credited for lowering premature births due to the lowered traffic congestion and pollution.

There’s a lot to love about the E-ZPass. It makes the necessary evil of commuting by car a little more manageable. But while the pass is quite common on freeways on the east coast and in parts of the Midwest, it’s still got a long way to go. Here’s where the E-ZPass could be headed in the coming future

Usage in Cities

New Yorkers–and those who commute to the city for work–have long known the time-cutting benefits of the E-ZPass. But in recent years, they’ve learned that the toll booths aren’t the only places their passes are being read. One hacker who modified his E-ZPass found that it was being read as he drove throughout New York City, where there definitely are no toll booths and no seemingly obvious answer for why they the pass should be read.

Tool BoothFor many, this raises data privacy concerns, but the company that makes the E-ZPass assured that the data pulled from the responders is anonymous and used to measure traffic conditions. So, don’t expect to get a speeding pass thanks to your E-ZPass (yet). This does show how trackable vehicle data could be used for the good of all commuters, from alerting them to traffic jams to influencing how long traffic lights are lit.

E-ZPass at the Drive-Thru?

The E-ZPass makes it easy to get you where you need to go. But what about getting you some fast food? At the turn of the millennium, two Long Island McDonald’s restaurants incorporated the E-ZPass technology into their drive-thrus. Customers had an easier time paying, McDonald’s could get through its line of customers quicker, and the Metro Transit Authority got a kickback on every transaction. Everybody won – that is, until customers began stealing E-ZPasses.

More recently, a few Wendy’s restaurants in Staten Island were trying the technology again, but the technology still isn’t widespread. It still brings to mind other uses for the E-ZPass. Imagine paying for parking garage access with your pass. Perhaps we could even pay for on-street parking someday without having to take out our wallets.

The Future of E-ZPass

As of now, 16 states have toll roads that use the E-ZPass system. That sounds like a lot, but it’s worth remembering that not every toll road in these states uses the system. So, if you find yourself merging onto the Downbeach Express, for example, you’ll still have to fish for some coins. And don’t even think about driving cross-country without having to pay tolls in cash.

E-ZPass officials are reportedly working on bringing the system to more states such as Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Utah. Furthermore, some other states use their own, separate forms of electronic passes that aren’t compatible with E-ZPass, but the MAP-21 bill passed by Congress in 2012 requires them to all be intercompatible by the end of 2016. So, perhaps a completely tollbooth-less road trip is in the near future after all.

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