Germany is one of the few European countries where you don't have to pay (directly) if you want to drive on a highway. At least for trucks this was supposed to change at the beginning of September.

Being the high-tech country that Germany is, we've chosen to show the world how to charge the money the right way. No stopping before you drive onto the highway, no, things have to work automatically.

A consortium named Toll-Collect has been charged with implementing the system. Basically you have three choices, register via internet, register at one of the Toll-Collect stations in gas stations and other places or - and this is the really advanced part - use an on-board unit OBU.

This OBU is a little box inside your truck that counts the miles (errm, kilometers) you drive on a highway. It contains a cell-phone and knows your geographical position as well as where the highways are. Everything is automatic. Great!

Well, not so great. There have been massive technical and software-side problems with these boxes. They charge even if you are not on a highway but only close by. They count backwards if your side of the highway is under construction and traffic is redirected via the other side. Incompatibilities between systems. Random communication errors ...

Because of these problems the start has been delayed until November and it seems as if it will have to be delayed again.

It looks like a simple case of one of the many software projects that run out of schedule (and out of budget, I bet). Toll-Collect has been funded by some of Germany's heavyweights of the software and electronic industry (Daimler-Chrysler and Deutsche Telekom) or those heavyweights are working on the hardware (Siemens and Grundig build the OBUs). This shows that big companies have the same problem, even if they are able to throw more people into the project - this may be new to some.

Strangely the requirements have been rather clear from the start and haven't changed. This usually is the reason for failing projects, but not this time.

The downside for German citizens is that a separate contract between the government and Toll-Collect seems to say that those failures will not make Toll-Collect pay back anything of the lost money for the first few months and puts a cap on the damages to pay for a full year.

path: /en/Germany/maut | #