Driving on  a highway is always fun. Long, uninterrupted stretches of roads; no speed breaker; no population of pedestrians to be aware of and the speed to thrill the senses. Elements of nature's beauty, on both sides of the road, work as dash of spice and the countryside view is like a fresh whiff of aroma. - alas we end up missing most of this aroma and fragrance of spice in a hurry to reach out destination. 

All this comes to a halt at toll gate. Long queue results in loss of time and restlessness among the drivers can be felt in the air.  This also results in loss of fuel and air quality. 

Recently, the government came out with the solution - 'Fastag'. Though the solution has been there for some time, it has been made mandatory for the vehicles to have fastag. New vehicles come out with fastag and the owners of old ones are expected to procure one on their own. 

I too brought one and to my delight, rather than a thick transponder, it was mere a sticker to be placed on windscreen of the car. 

Sticker obtained, glued to the car, I was itching to see how it can be used. 

Fantastic First Fastag experience - The trip to Hyd

Fastag, being a new tool, was also epicenter of discussion, especially in terms of the mode of payment and recharge. As usual, we are expert in giving advice, forming opinions and sharing speculations rather than reading accurate information from reliable sources. We all had our own opinions on how would that piece of sticker work. 

Some readings eased the pressure of finding way to recharge the account, as it would be deducted automatically. from a payment gateway or bank. 

On the day of christmas, I was on my way to Hyderabad. Little confident with the information gained and little apprehensive due to the stories that I had heard or read about issues with fastag, I approached the first toll booth. 

There were a couple of vehicles in front of me. But all those moved swiftly and now it was my turn. I was at the counter and looked at the operator. He made gesture towards me, which I took as sign to pay. I pointed towards the sticker and he made similar gesture. I assumed that all the issues I read about fastag have come knocking. Anticipating it, I had asked my wife to keep cash handy. I asked for that and in all that, the vehicle moved a bit forward. 

and lo! the toll barrier opened. It was then that I realized that there was a RFID reader was near the gate and the toll booth operator was making a gesture for me to move ahead and be closer to the reader. 

Said thanks and I moved on. Time spent on the barrier, including that taken by cars ahead of me must be less than 20% of what it used to take earlier. 

Feeling confident, I moved on to subsequent toll gates. Experience at most of them were similar except that I did not have to wait for the gesture of the tool both operator. 

Hiccups cometh

Not all the tool booth were as smoothless. At a booth or two, there were trucks which took longer to cross due to some technical glitch. It took longer for me to cross the gate but was still better than the one in pre-fastag world. 

At one of the booth, on my way back, I came across a toll booth where I faced the glitch first hand. The scanner at the booth showed that I had insufficient balance. The operator came out of the booth with a hand held device and scanned the sticker once again albeit with the same result - Insufficient balance'. 

I showed the balance in my wallet and explained the same to him. To my surprise, the operator was as much aware of the process, as I was before I had read the information on toll payment method. I am sure little bit of training will help the NHAI employees. 

Automation takes away the job - does it?

Industry, these days, is abuzz with the concept of automation. most of the discussion starts with the benefits of automations and ends of its ills in terms of reduction of job opportunities for human beings. 

Fastag automates toll payment and in effect is capable of taking away many jobs. Once fastag is implemented universally across the toll booth and works seamlessly, iit has the potential of taking away many jobs. But for now, the story is quite opposite. 

Implementation of new process and a new product needs new learning for all stakeholders, starting from toll operators to the people crossing it.  People are yet to adopt fastag and more still yet to adapt to the new process. There is confusion in the queues which still accept cash and the ones which allow fastag. To cater to such confused drivers, NHAI has employed some workers to guide the cars to relevant queue. This might, at least temporarily have given rise to job opportunities on the ground. For now, it's all well. Let us wait till the learning curves flattens. 

For now, driving is fun, we have countryside aroma and spice of natural view. We may not have any pedestrian to worry about and there won't be any speed breaker - not even the toll gates. 

Enjoy the thrill of a good drive


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