“66 Tolls”: An Alexa Skill Providing Real-Time Tolling Data

There’s no future that doesn’t have ambient computing or voice activation… none.” Mark Cuban.

Open data and voice interfaces will both have growing roles in transportation. As a consultant in the ITS field, I’ve always felt that there was great value in understanding multiple perspectives, from a high level down through implementation. With that in mind, I was looking for a personal project to use one of the datasets that VDOT provides through their great SmarterRoads open data portal, and I also wanted to develop a custom voice interface Alexa Skill. The result is a newly certified and published Alexa skill: Sixty Six Tolls.

For those outside the Northern Virginia area, Interstate 66 inside the I-495 Beltway is a HOT road with dynamic tolling for portions of the day. While the toll may change between checking the cost at home and the time a driver reaches their entrance, it’s still useful to have an idea of the highly variable toll, especially since tolls for the entire 10 mile length have sometimes spiked at over $40. As Alexa is integrated into new cars, the skill will be accessible by voice while en route.  Sixty Six Tolls provides the user with real-time tolling data between any entrance and exit pair, allows the user to save their most frequent inbound and outbound interchange pair, and also provides comparative speeds and travel times on I-66 and US Route 50.

Check it out for yourself on your Alexa device (first enable it with “Enable Sixty Six Tolls. From then on, just say “Open Sixty Six Tolls”). You can read more about how to use it here. For technical details, including a link to the open sourced code, go to the project write-up on hackster.io.