SYSTEM FOR NOTIFYING TOLL CHARGE
The present invention relates to a system for notifying a customer of toll charge information. In particular, the present invention relates to a notification of toll charge information stored in an automatic charge system which automatically charges a toll charge for a vehicle when the 10 vehicle passes a toll gate.
Electronic Toll Collection System (hereinafter referred to 15 as "ETC"), which enables charging a passage at a toll gate of a toll road without stopping a vehicle, is already in use. Options of payment for ETC include later payment, and advance payment. Later payment can be made using a method similar to that of paying by conventional credit 20 cards. In the case of later payment, charges stored in a charge server are accumulated every month and the accumulated charge is directly debited to the customer's bank account. In the case of advance payment, on the other hand, a predetermined amount of money is prepaid into an account, and 25 each time a customer uses a toll road the toll charge is subtracted from the prepaid account. The mode of advance payment has an advantage in that a customer earns special bonus points on a predetermined amount of money prepaid into an account. In a case, when the balance in a customer's 30 prepaid account is not sufficient to pay an incurred charge, the payment mode switches from that of prepaid to that of credit or the mode of later payment. However, the disadvantage in this is that the customer loses bonus points on having to pay by default through the later payment mode. 35
One of the solutions for the above-mentioned problem is to provide a means for a customer of checking the balance in the prepaid account so that the customer can maintain sufficient balance in the prepaid account to pay all subsequent toll charges. The following two methods are used for 40 confirming the balance in the prepaid account: (1) through online accessing of the prepaid account; and (2) by making a telephone call to the concerned authority. However, both these methods are inconvenient because the customer must operate his/her communication terminal in order to access 45 the necessary information. Furthermore, in order for a customer to access the latest information on a prepaid account such as just after passing a toll gate, it is both inconvenient as well as unsafe to operate a communication terminal as the customer's vehicle would still be in motion 50 and the customer would have to come to a halt before performing the necessary operation. Also, there is a certain time lag between the time of passing a toll gate and the time of confirming the balance in the prepaid account. In a case that the customer does not confirm the balance in the prepaid 55 account because of insufficiency of time after passing a toll gate and before reaching another toll gate, there is a possibility that the customer may pass a toll gate without adequate balance in the prepaid account to pay the latest toll charge. In such a case, the customer cannot get the benefit of bonus 60 points on the prepaid account.
In order to overcome this problem, a system which enables a customer to access the latest information on a prepaid account without operating his/her communication terminal, is suggested (for example, as disclosed in JP 65 2001-250137A, a Japanese Patent Application Laid-Open Publication). According to the system, a car-mounted ETC
device receives gate passage information when the car passes a toll gate, and the gate passage information is transmitted to a car navigation device connected to the ETC device. When the car navigation device receives the gate passage information, the car navigation device compares the present location with map information, identifies the toll gate, and stores the name of the toll gate. When the toll gate is an exit, the car navigation device establishes a connection with a website of the ETC provider via the communication terminal connected to the car navigation device. Then, the car navigation device searches toll charge information by using user identification number (user ID) and the toll gate information, and displays the search results on the display of the car navigation device.
In most ETC systems, an IC card, which is used by being inserted into a car-mounted ETC device, stores personal information of the customer. Therefore, it is not recommended that the car-mounted ETC device be connected to another electronic device which is capable of communicating with other electronic devices or communication networks, as personal information on the customer can be transmitted to a public network. In the prior art, if a car-mounted ETC device is not connected to a car navigation device, the car navigation device cannot receive gate passage information. Therefore, it is impossible for the car navigation device to identify the name of the toll gate and to search toll charge information. As a result, the customer cannot confirm the balance in the prepaid account immediately after passing a toll gate.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention provides a solution to the above problem. In other words, the present invention allows the customer to confirm the balance in the prepaid account immediately after the car passes a toll gate without operating any terminal devices, independent of the connection between a terminal device that is mounted on a vehicle and is an entity of an ETC system and another terminal device that is not an entity of an ETC system.
To solve the problem, the present invention provides a system for notifying charge information having a plurality of toll gate and a charge apparatus for storing information on the balance in a prepaid account of a customer or a vehicle, and for subtracting a toll charge from the balance in the prepaid account when the vehicle passes a toll gate, comprising: a location measurement device that outputs a toll gate passage signal when the location measurement device detects that the vehicle has passed a toll gate on the basis of a toll gate passage detection rule using a location relation information of the vehicle and the toll gate, the location measurement device being carried by or mounted on the vehicle; and a mobile communication terminal that accesses from the charge apparatus, latest information on the balance in a prepaid account when the mobile communication terminal receives the toll gate passage signal, the mobile communication terminal being carried by or mounted on the vehicle.
The location identification device outputs a toll gate passage signal when the location identification device detects that the vehicle has passed a toll gate. When the mobile communication terminal receives the toll gate passage signal, the mobile communication terminal accesses latest information on the balance in the prepaid account of the customer from the charge device, which is the procedure that constitutes the electronic toll collection system.