Earlier this year, I heard some rumblings that Oregon was considering shifting their gas tax to a mileage based tax. The idea is to maintain or increase state road revenue by charging “by the mile” instead of “by the gallon” as a measure to combat fuel usage reductions with more fuel efficient cars on the road. I wrote it off at the time considering the technology to do so would be impractical for quite some time – but it would appear they’re now positioning some leverage against auto manufacturers to support this technology.
As has been the case for years now, going “green” will by no means be a less expensive alternative. We have to pay more for organic foods, shell out more cash for “green” energy, and dish out more for seemingly any “green” option that’s available. It would appear that the systems of taxation are right on top of this…they’ll figure out a way to make you pay, even if you’re using less.
The necessary technology behind the effort is alarming to me. Somehow, fuel providers (and who knows whom else) must “download” data from one’s vehicle to determine how many miles had been driven since the last fuel up. Theoretically, this information could be tied into GPS systems frequently found in today’s vehicles through safety technologies like OnStar, which also concerns me a great deal. This means that interested parties could use this information to determine where your vehicle has been, not just how many miles had been driven.
With every technology, I am always aware of the potential results if such information were hackable, which will always be the case. (If the Pentagon gets successfully hacked, an auto manufacturer has zero chance of a secure system.) A techno-criminal could theoretically access this information and determine where your house was and your regular travel patterns could be assessed for when you were commonly away from home.
Even if we were assured that GPS data would not be tied into the download and that our government or hackers would never receive our personal driving habits, I ask the fundamental question of whether it’s good to have such technology that can track our vehicle usage over any period of time. Why not show the real intent and create a separate (higher) tax for hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles? The next challenge would be how to determine the difference between a gas guzzling rig vs. a fuel efficient model vehicle. Simply have a different fuel tank mechanism that can tell the pump what kind of vehicle you have. Outfitting fuel tanks and gas pumps to detect fuel efficient cars seems no more difficult than outfitting cars and pumps to be ready to download mileage data – and no personal information needs to be collected.
Anyhow, that’s what I know on this front. Hope you’re feeling better informed!