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Friday, July 3, 2009

Researchers at the University of Iowa are currently conducting field tests on technology to replace the current gasoline tax with a by-the-mile road tax. These tests utilize GPS devices installed in vehicles to log the number of miles driven. Before I get into the complications that arise from such a move, officials endorsing the road tax believe:

...the traditional by-the-gallon fuel tax, struggling to keep up with road building and maintenance demands, could fall even farther behind as vehicles' gas mileage rises and more alternative-fuel vehicles come on line.
Basically, their argument is that because vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient (at least partly as a result of government mandates), the established tax on gasoline no longer provides enough money to "properly" fund road maintenance. (I'm sure you can deduce why "properly" in is quotations).

I decided to list complications of this switch in list form. If you think of anything I missed, comment, and I may choose to add your suggestion.
  1. Privacy - I don't know about you, but I don't want the government lojacking my vehicle for any reason. Even if the bill's language includes specific references to the use of the information, simply having the device already in place makes it easier for the government to go further with the collected information in the future.
  2. Environment - Presently, the gasoline tax serves a dual purpose. It funds road maintenance and discourages consumption (thus promoting research and development into alternative fuel sources). Switching to a road tax adds a new tax to owners of electric vehicles (and increases taxes for owners of more fuel efficient vehicles). The government may also be pressured to institute a separate excise tax on gasoline, effectively making this tax shift into a new tax.
  3. Stolen Vehicles - The road tax adds a new complication to victims of vehicle theft. Not only will the victim be left without a vehicle, but may also potentially have to pay a tax on the miles driven by the thief.
  4. GPS Capacity - I am no expert on this subject, but will the current Global Positioning System (GPS) have the capacity to relay information from every vehicle in the country?

Posted by Eleutherian

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  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. 1. GPS cannot report anything. GPS devices do not contain transmitters.
    2. Polution concerns have little to do with an EV-oriented discussion. Tax issues on a consumable good have nothing to do with use taxes -- you're muddying the discussion.
    3. File a police report, as you would anyway. Unless this becomes a driving disincentive program, the couple of dollars a joyride costs is probably not worth your time to recover/avoid. Maybe if someone steals your car and drives cross country before returning it to you, it might be worth your time.
    4. The answer to your question: GPS satellites have infinite capacity. Just like an auditorium, if you get somewhere within earshot, you can hear whatever everyone else does. GPS basically counts out loud, and you figure out where you are based upon who you hear and in what order you hear them.

  3. 1. If a GPS device cannot report anything, than there would be no point to this study. Since this is a viable study on how to report driving habits using GPS devices, you must be mistaken on this count.

    2. These are very legitimate environmental concerns. I apologize for "muddying" the discussion with inconvenient facts.


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