Q-Free EVP Fredrik Nordh discusses 40 years of tolling innovation and future trends

We recently had a conversation with our EVP of Tolling, Fredrik Nordh, to gain insights into the status of tolling in 2024 and the trends driving industry changes.

In the interview, Fredrik reflects on the company’s 40-year journey of innovation in tolling technology and shares insights into current industry trends driving future advancements. From digital transformation to environmental goals, he highlights the key factors shaping the future of tolling systems.

As a start, what will you say have been the key game changers in Q-Free’s 40-year history?

“There have been several key game changers that have solidified our position in the tolling industry over the decades,” says Fredrik and continues: “First and foremost, our continuous adoption and development of technological innovations, coupled with the dedication and expertise of our employees, have been crucial. Their willingness to be first movers and their commitment to pushing the industry boundaries have driven our success.”

Fredrik further highlights Q-Free’s transition from Single-Lane Manual Toll collection to advanced electronic toll collection (ETC) and Multi-Lane Free-Flow (MLFF) systems, which significantly enhanced efficiency and reduced congestion.

“Additionally, global expansion and close partnerships have played a vital role,” Fredrik adds.

“By entering and establishing a strong presence in international markets, we diversified our revenue streams and increased market share. Also, forming alliances and acquiring complementary companies have led to products and solutions that have allowed us to remain competitive in a dynamic market for decades.”

What are the trends currently driving innovation and progress in the tolling industry?

“Several key trends are driving innovation and progress in the tolling industry today,” Fredrik says.

He mentions that digital transformation and AI are at the forefront, with the shift towards digital tolling systems improving efficiency, accuracy, and user convenience. Fredrik also highlights the significant move towards integrating tolling systems with broader smart city infrastructure, optimizing traffic management, and supporting multimodal transport solutions.

“The most important trend to us might be the growing focus on implementing tolling solutions that support efficiency and environmental goals,” Fredrik says.

“This includes congestion pricing and low-emission zones to reduce peak-hour traffic, encourage the use of public transport, and alleviate congestion. Multi-Lane Free-Flow systems are also being adopted to improve cost and operational efficiency. User-centric solutions are another major trend, aimed at enhancing user experience through seamless payment options, real-time information, and personalized services.”

Fredrik’s list of trends couldn’t close without mentioning video tolling as a hot topic expected to rise in relevance going forward.

Can you tell us about some of the most exciting projects Q-Free is currently working on?

“There are endless opportunities within our segment of tolling, including our future solutions for distance-based tolling, Automatic Licence Plate Registration solutions, and city integration projects,” he replied.

“We are staying focused on what we believe creates the most value for our customers and Q-Free. Right now, our geographical expansions are particularly exciting. We are working on fantastic projects in Spain and delivering our first tolling projects in France, both of which are growing markets that are extremely interesting to us.”

Continuing, Fredrik tells us about Q-Free’s investments in hardware development for tolling and the distance-based tolling solutions known as Road User Charging 2.0, which further improve the company’s current flagship products and develop groundbreaking new solutions.

“Road User Charging 2.0 is our most radical innovation project,” he says.

“It involves developing the next-generation road user charging system. This GNSS-based system charges users based on the distance they drive, rather than the specific points they cross to enter a zone or use a specific segment of the road. While such systems exist for trucks in several countries, Q-Free’s development focuses on personal cars, prioritizing integrity, GDPR compliant solution with edge fee calculation, and sensitive l data that never leaves the vehicle.”

Fredrik also highlights Q-Free’s revamp of the Stockholm Congestion Charging system, including upgrades to the ALPR solution, recognized as the Intrada video-based tolling solution, the most accurate and leading in the industry;

“Our profound expertise with video tolling from successful projects like the Stockholm Congestion Charging is a significant advantage. As video tolling becomes increasingly popular, we’re working on many promising projects involving ALPR and vehicle analytics. We have great expectations for this segment going forward,” Fredrik concludes.

Finally, we asked Fredrik about the road ahead for the development and implementation of tolling technology.

“It’s no secret that we see a promising future for our business segment,” Fredrik states, before he starts summarizing what we have been talking through:

“We anticipate increased automation and the use of AI, which will be key in predictive analytics, dynamic pricing, and the development of continuously more efficient toll collection systems.”

Fredrik outlines various aspects worth mentioning, including interoperability between different tolling systems and regions, environmental concerns driving the development of efficient and greener toll plazas, and cybersecurity enhancements as systems become more digital and interconnected.

“Lastly, we foresee increased public-private partnerships,” Fredrik says.

“These collaborations will help fund and implement advanced tolling infrastructure, leveraging the strengths of both sectors to drive innovation and progress in the industry.”

To close the interview, Fredrik utilizes the opportunity to thank Q-Free partners and customers for the collaboration so far, and the employees for their efforts.

“We would never have come here without the joint efforts, and while we have achieved fantastic things so far within Q-Free Tolling, I believe even more amazing things are yet to come,” he concludes.