Q-Free’s history in short
Norway was, and is, a costly country with respect to roads, bridges and tunnels construction, and tolling was seen as an important tool to finance such infrastructure. The need for automatic systems was also important to minimize operational cost and hence optimizing founds left for building infrastructure. This opportunity attracted Q-Free and in cooperation with the Norwegian Road Authority, Q-Free deployed in 1988 the world’s first fullspeed non-stop electronic toll collection system at Ranheim (Trondheim, Norway) as a result of a R&D program carried out from 1986 to 1988.
The 1990’s gave the first larger deployments of Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) systems. Norway installed large toll cordons in Oslo and Trondheim and Portugal rolled out a nation-wide ETC system called Via Verde in 1995. In 1997, the CEN DSRC standards were released, contributing to a rapid spread of the European ETC technology to markets outside of Europe, such as Chile, Australia and Brazil.
The focus in the 2000’s was to continue to expand internationally as well as maintaining a strong position in our home market. Also the company modified its strategy in 2006 from being a very much DSRC focused technology company to become a broad solution provider offering solutions for various road user changing applications. This implied that Q-Free from 2006-2011 has invested significantly developing new tolling technologies and solutions as well as acquired state of the art ALPR technology. In addition, the company has undergone a major restructuring focusing on professionalisation during the same time period.
Focus on ATMS (Advanced Transportation Management Systems).
Q-Free ASA is awarded the Gothenburg congestion charging project in Sweden. Acquisition of US Company TCS International, Inc. brings a new focus on ATMS. TCS was established in 1999 and is an innovator within the ATMS field, specializing in parking guidance and management systems.
Q-Free ASA positions for breakthrough in Indonesia.
In January, in order to further broaden the product portfolio and be able to offer the market the best solutions for the applications at hand, Q-Free ASA purchases 100 percent of the shares of Building Capital Ltd. The company has references throughout Europe within RUC in general and GNSS/GPS (satellite)-based solutions in particular. GNSS-based solutions will be important going forward and Q-Free is now one of the main players for supplying cashless tolling based on DSRC (tag) and ALPR (camera). In a very short space of time, through combining Building Capital’s proven GNSS technology and its existing experience, Q-Free is able to quickly bring to market an advanced, GNSS-based RUC offering.
In January, SkyToll in the Slovak Republic signs a €50 million contract with Q-Free ASA for the delivery of a GPS-based truck tolling system. This covers a central operating central system, an enforcement system and a three-year service agreement. The project for Slovakia’s ETC system is unique by international standards as the state-of-the-art satellite tolling technology also covers, in addition to highways and expressways, large sections of other higher-level roads.
Q-Free signs a contract with Bangkok Expressway Company Ltd (BECL) in February. The contract covers modernization of an existing road tolling system.
In August Q-Free ASA is awarded an AutoPASS contract by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA). The contract comprises delivery and installation of 10 fully automated toll stations in addition to an upgrade of existing toll stations surrounding Trondheim, as well as service and maintenance.
In August Q-Free ASA receives an order from the Spanish Company Grupo Ferrovial SA relating to its concessionaire in Portugal, Euroscut Norte SA, which is owned by the Spanish company Cintra SA. The concession is to be transformed from a shadow tolling scheme into a fully operational Multi-Lane Free-Flow (MLFF) tolling system. Ferrovial is a new customer for Q-Free in Portugal and as such an important expansion for the company.
Q-Free ASA acquires Dacolian, a company developing software for the Intelligent Transport Systems market. The acquisition strengthens Q-Free’s position as a leading company within the RUC market, and enables the offering of a broader range of solutions and competence as Dacolian also utilizes its solution for other applications such as travel time estimation, access control, law enforcement and surveillance.
Q-Free ASA is contracted to supply the transport infrastructure to the Winter Olympics in Turin. In collaboration with GTT (Turin’s public transport company) and its partner Ativa, the Italian highway operator Sitaf devises a system called Si.Pass – Europe’s first integrated public and private transport system payable via one tolling method.
Q-Free ASA wins its largest-ever contract with IBM, to supply all tolling equipment to the Stockholm Congestion Charging project. In the last half of the year, the company manages to break into the Chilean tolling market with large contracts for its on-board units.
Q-Free ASA carries out an IPO and is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange on 3 April 2002.
Q-Free ASA acquires 53 percent of Noca Assembly AS.
Q-Free ASA enters the Australian market and creates a new subsidiary company.
Q-Free ASA enters the tolling market in Brazil with orders for tolling equipment to the state of Sao Paulo. Q-Free acquires Nera Mobildata’s ticketing division.
Micro Design AS changes its name to Q-Free ASA. Q-Free enters the market in China and Holland and expands into new business areas with the creation of two new divisions: Q-Free Access and Q-Free Ticketing. New subsidiaries are established in Malaysia and Brazil and a representative office in China is opened. Norway’s first installation of integrated smart card based ticketing is awarded to Q-Free’s Ticketing division.
The common European standard for electronic toll collection, based on 5.8GHz, is introduced. The world’s first automatic environmental charging system is installed in Austria using Q-Free equipment.
In 1995, Micro Design AS has its first international breakthrough – installing the Q-Free system and establishing the first Q-Free subsidiary in Portugal. Over the course of the next four years, the company moves into new European markets and worldwide into Malaysia, China, Australia and Brazil.
Micro Design AS achieves certification for ISO 9001:2000.
5.8GHz is proposed as the new standard in Europe for radio communications for tolling systems.
The Q-Free tolling system is installed in Oslo.
The first Q-Free tolling system is installed in Trondheim.
Micro Design’s first real breakthrough comes when it is awarded the contract with Statens Vegvesen (Norwegian Public Roads Administration) for the development of the ‘Q-Free’ Tolling System.
The company is established under the name ‘Micro Design AS’.