Independent consultancy and telematics experts SBD say the European Commission is aiming for all vehicles to be fitted with an electronic toll collection 'ETC' box, linked to a standard contract for the owner or operator.
It adds that at the end of each billing period, a single invoice would be issued, covering journeys made through any member state. For pan-European fleets, such a system could make the administration of their drivers using toll roads in different countries easier. But the company claims it has identified a series of issues that show the EC's ambition to be unrealistic both in the short and medium terms.
In its Introduction to Electronic Toll Collection and its Implications for Telematics report, it says that at present four main technologies are in use or under development. They are: Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC), used for automatic payment on toll motorways, bridges and tunnels, tachographs and satellite tracking/positioning GSM/GPS, used in Germany for truck tolls and being considered for road charging in the UK and the Netherlands.
An SBD spokesman said: 'It has taken 10 years for the ETC industry to reach agreement on a European standard for DSRC, but even now this standard is incompatible with the system currently used by about four million Italian drivers. The issue of DSRC interoperability with other technologies is also only at the research stage.
'A GSM/GPS system for road charging has been made a long-term Government target in the UK, with implementation from about 2015. SBD identifies this technology as being the only ETC system that can also support telematics services, including the e-call provision that the EC would like to see introduced for all new cars from about 2010.'
SBD managing director David Bell added: 'The European ETC industry has a poor reputation for interoperability. This suggests that the target of a single, standard system will be difficult to achieve.'