Disruptive Technology for Tolling

Disruptive technologies are those that displace an existing technology, usually by offering a lower-cost solution with a different approach.

Hat-tip to reader Ross Williams who passed on this reference to GPS-based tolling technologies.

There are also potential applications in related areas like pay-as-you-drive insurance, and a VMT tax as an alternative to fuel taxes.

10 responses to “Disruptive Technology for Tolling”

  1. The only problem I have with certain methods, is there must be a way to toll based on actual road mile usage. No one should pay anything to the Government if they’re living in the back woods of America (Oregon) and driving over dirt.

    I started reading the book Street Smart ( I think per an entry in this blog ) and the writer of said book points out many technologies that are very capable of tolling, without interupting traffic flow. Along with that there are other methods such as shadow tolling and other such things.

    The GPS Toll based technology is nice, but at the same time I’m not sure I like the notion that easy integration of speed tracking, location tracking, and other such notorious “1984” type scenarios could arise from the technologies misuse.

    …and the Government is VERY notorious for misuse of rights and technology.
    re: Patriot Act, Social Security, Welfare, Military Industrial Complex, etc., etc., etc…

  2. GPS-based tolling brings with it serious privacy concerns which I am not convinced can be (or will be) adequately addressed.

    However, I believe a compromise can be reached which could do away with the need for tolls in most situations.

    Right now we have a gas tax, and until recently (with the advent of hybrid cars), the gas tax somewhat approximated a weight-mile tax because larger, heavier vehicles tended to get worse MPG than smaller, lighter vehicles.

    The gas tax brings money in, in proportion to VMT. But, the allocation of those funds is not directly correlated to usage or demand.

    The state could select a representative sample of volunteers (somewhere between a few hundred and a few thousand drivers around the state) and outfit their vehicles with GPS logging systems. These volunteers would be paid (cash, tax waiver, take your pick) for their participation.

    The GPS logs would be used to establish a database of the actual driving behavior of our population – origins, destinations, highways used. With this data, it would be easy to tell where increases in transportation capacity (and removal of bottlenecks) would give the most congestion relief or “bang for the buck”.

    Further, it would quantify whether really expensive infrastructure (new bridges, tunnels, etc.) might be ineffective compared to a series of numerous smaller improvements in the network.

    Other issues such as net donor counties (counties that pay more in gas taxes than they receive in highway funding) could be adjusted by varying gas tax rates per county based on this set of travel data (if it is found that a majority of drivers in County X are crossing expensive infrastructure in County Y, then the taxes in County X should be proportionately adjusted.)

    Finally, to offset the revenue impact of hybrid vehicles, the gas tax can be left alone but the annual vehicle registration fee can be based on vehicle weight to balance out the difference. Hybrid owners would still receive something of a break over the life of their car (to encourage lower consumption and lower pollution compared to regular cars) but it wouldn’t be the huge revenue disparity (of 25% – 50%) in gas taxes as is represented now.

    For this to really work for the contentious debates we have now (Columbia river crossing, for example), the implementation would have to be bi-state or multi-county regional. (In other words, probably not politically viable, but one can dream…)

    – Bob R.

  3. Justin –

    I am aware that the state is testing a GPS based system, but there is little information available about privacy or audit capability. Personally, I don’t want to be forced to carry a device in my car which reports my driving patterns to the state, as state-wide GPS tolling may someday require us to do.

    What I am proposing is an alternative: Use GPS on a limited basis with volunteers to determine driving habits, resource demand, etc., while still using the gas tax (which is anonymous and requires no intrusive equipment to implement) as a primary means of revenue generation.

    – Bob R.

  4. Bob R. – Or the US could begin privatization of the road systems (per Street Smart) so that all of those things you noted could be competantly and accurately done. Under Fed/State/City control they will not be. I’d bet every penny I have if a control and test group could be setup.

    We’d seen lane additions, even on top of lanes if need be, if there is demand it would get built.

    Unlike recently where a member of the ODOT stated that simply, I-5 will not get new lanes.

    That isn’t very reflective of demand.

  5. Because of the added expense of incorporating transmitters into the devices, it’s unlikely that any GPS metering scheme would actually send timestamped positional data to another party. Instead it would probably store internally the waypoint data or some sort of waypoint-to-zone mapping. This would make protecting privacy tenable if still highly unlikely since no organization — public or commercial — is going to be excited about boarding up the entrance to that goldmine.

    Privacy issues aside, most of the interesting possibilities seem like they rely on an assumed presence of these devices in all vehicles. I find it difficult to imagine that the monetary and political expense of installing one of these in every registered vehicle would pass muster if it’s not going to achieve anything much more sophisticated than existing and less costly RFID-based systems.

  6. JPods is a disruptive technology.

    Currently we create congestion and use energy moving a ton to move a person (car). Currently random driver behaviors kill about 14 of every 100,000.

    JPods change moving a ton towards moving only the person. JPods combine roller coaster mechanics with computer network to create a cost savings of about 27 cents per passenger mile; roller coasters are 9,000 times safer than cars. They are suspended from rails, occupying a different plane from current congestion and errors. Computer controlled they are exempt from driver error.

    Adoption will be driven by a combination of great economic reward and the penalties of Peak Oil.

  7. Clay –

    My contention is that any GPS tolling device, in order to have proper audit capability (so that when a person claims “Hey! I was out-of-state that day!”, rightly or wrongly), must keep an internal log of travels.

    Given all that has happened in recent years with the Patriot Act, government bulk wiretapping of domestic long distance calls, and government eavesdropping on most Internet traffic, what is to stop the government from mandating that these internal logs get uploaded on a monthly basis (or at every filling station) along with the regular tolling data?

    I trust our government (it is still _our_ government, right?) with a number of things, but lately protecting privacy isn’t one of those things.

    – Bob R.

  8. Dear Mr. James –

    By “JPods”, are you in fact referring to yet another unbuilt, unproven, untested Personal Rapid Transit scheme?

    I still haven’t seen an answer to how PRT proponents intend to keep people from shooting up drugs or urinating or worse inside these public/private pods.

    To me, PRT, although it promises something of a grand, shiny Sci-Fi future, actually seems to combine the worst attributes of private autos and public transit into one mode of travel.

    At least taxicabs have a human supervisor built-in.

    – Bob R.

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