September 29, 2020
Many people today have grown used to automatic location services, Internet cookies, and other tracking services on their smartphones. It’s become the “norm” in the background of life’s bustling activity. Yet, despite today’s commonplace smart devices that track the how, who, and where of individual consumerism, many people have strong feelings about rights to privacy. Understandably so.
Meanwhile, many state governments are testing road usage charging (RUC) programs, also known as pay-per-mile tax systems, in an effort to replace the revenues barely trickling in from antiquated fuel taxes. These RUC programs require reliable, secure mileage reporting options (MROs) to accurately calculate road charges. In-state miles driven must be differentiated from miles driven out-of-state and taxable miles should be tallied on a regular and timely basis.
So, should an RUC program come into effect, how could we go about efficiently and privately reporting mileage?
To date, the mileage reporting option showing the most efficacy is the onboard diagnostic device (OBDII) that plugs into a cars’ existing diagnostic port. OBD devices are popular because third party technology providers (like Azuga) ensure complete privacy from government eyes, the technology is reliable, has a low overhead cost, and is compatible with most vehicles. However, some vehicle owners are resistant to the idea of having a device, no matter how secure and non-invasive, attached to their vehicles.
It is prudent for road user programs to consider additional MROs. Here is why:
As a technology provider at the forefront of testing and operating road usage charge programs across the country, Azuga has tested a number of MROs and we believe there are a couple alternatives these programs should offer. Odometer-based options, for example, are essential.
In addition to the time-tested OBDII device option, Azuga advocates for implementing a variety of mileage reporting options to meet the individual needs and preferences of a diverse population. Odometer-based MROs are paramount for the privacy-conscious segment of the population. A couple of these alternatives include odometer image capture (OIC) and manual odometer entry. Although they’re not as seamless nor as engaging as the device MROs that come with a variety of premium features, OIC and manual entry have several advantages such as the following:
Although attractive options for drivers weary of plug-in technology, OIC and manual entry have a few drawbacks. For example, getting drivers to submit odometer readings or pictures in a correct and timely fashion can be difficult, and supplementary fraud prevention measures are necessary to weed out erroneous or counterfeit photos.
Neither of these options can differentiate between in-state and out-of-state miles, thereby automatically invoicing all miles as taxable; however, a driver may submit paperwork to the state department of transportation for a refund on miles driven outside of state borders. Additional forms and/or fee are required if the motorist accidentally sells his vehicle before submitting the final odometer reading. (Should this happen, the Department of Motor Vehicles would need to be involved in obtaining a verified reading.)
Despite these drawbacks, odometer-based MROs are safe, reliable, and comfortable solutions for road usage charge programs. Be that as it may, if a state or region ever decided to implement a multi-layered congestion pricing model (e.g. corridor pricing), manual refund management would become impossible and OIC would no longer be feasible.
Yes, but many alternatives have been tested and only a few have shown promise. In addition to OBDII devices and odometer-based options, a viable solution is vehicle onboard telematics (VOT). VOT allows owners of vehicles with native connected car systems (e.g. Ford Sync, GM OnStar) to utilize technology already built in to their vehicles for mileage reporting. Although convenient and efficient, drawbacks include the inability to differentiate in-state vs. out-of-state miles and a paid subscription to the car manufacturer is required. And, if the owner was to lose the subscription, mileage would be lost.
The provision of privacy and a variety of mileage reporting options are paramount to healthy public perception and acceptance of state-sanctioned road usage charging systems. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and we must be both creative and conscious of future applications of these technology systems. Many innovative ideas have come to the table and there just isn’t enough time to discuss them all in detail here.
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