A new app called Uproad lets you ditch the transponder and use your phone to take California toll roads

Technology

If you’ve ever avoided taking a toll road because you didn’t feel like dealing with the hassle of a transponder or potential fines for paying late, there’s a new app for you.

Uproad is a brand new app that lets you take many California toll roads with just your phone – no transponder necessary. While I haven’t personally tested the system, I did talk to the company behind it for an explanation of how it works.

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Here’s how it works: you download the app, sign up for an account and pay as you go or sign up for an optional membership.

The next time you take a toll road, you’ll get a notification on your phone with the amount of the toll. The total is deducted from your balance on the app or charged to your payment method of choice – credit/debit card, PayPal or Venmo.

Uproad works on 13 toll roads in California including the SR-133 Laguna Freeway, SR-241, SR-261 and SR-73 in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. It also works on the SR-125 Southbay Expressway in San Diego.

In Northern California, it works for many of the bridges including the Antioch Bridge, Benicia Martinez Bridge, Carquinez Bridge, Dumbarton Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Richmond San Rafael Bridge, San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge and San Mateo Hayward Bridge.

The company’s goal is to add as many toll roads as possible across the U.S. to its network of supported roads.

“Uproad App is about making tolls simple… How do we get drivers out there on the roadways and not have to worry about their tolls and thats where we think we can provide that service from a technology point of view,” explained Andrew Peppard, director of operations at Uproad, in a Zoom interview.

I pressed Peppard on how exactly the system works since I wanted to know if your phone needed to be physically on and the app active and GPS available for Uproad to work. The short answer, it seems, is no. Uproad is communicating on the backend with tolling authorities to identify your license plate in their database as soon as it hits a toll. Then, their system goes into action, seamlessly paying the toll on your behalf.

Andrew Peppard of Uproad

When you have your phone on and GPS active, that’s the only way you’ll get the real time notification.

You can register up to 10 license plates on one account so you can have all of the family cars included in the sign up.

As for fees, if you want to pay as you go, Uproad charges a 15% transaction fee on top of the toll fee. If you pay $2 a month or $20 for a yearly membership, that transaction fee drops to 4% of the toll amount.

Additionally, you can sign up for Uproad after you take a toll road, but within the typical time frame required to pay the fee. For example, if you have 5 days to pay, you could sign up for Uproad on day 2 after you take the toll and it is expected to handle the payment for you before the deadline.

Uproad is available for iOS and Android as a free download.

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