Interview with Nate Bryer, Vice President of Innovation, (appeared in )
MBUFA: What is Azuga’s role in the Oregon and California pilot programs?
Nate Bryer: We serve the nation’s first pilot program, OReGO in Oregon, as well as the California Road Charge Pilot Program, the world’s largest pilot of this kind. Through our service of these programs, I can tell you that we have learned a lot about the needs and expectations of both the government body and the end consumer.
Azuga provides account management services for the road usage charge (RUC) programs. What this entails is providing all the customer facing processes to consumers for supporting road usage charging. This includes onboarding, enrollment, collecting mileage, collecting fees, logistics and customer support. We also provide all of the backend services to the state to ensure all mileage is captured as well as all associated mileage fees. We provide detailed reports to show direct reconciliation between miles captured and fees collected.
Lastly, we provide a level of separation between consumers and the state to ensure the consumer’s data stays private. The only information we provide to the state is aggregated mileage and fees, never any location information.
MBUFA: What have you learned and what has been the biggest challenge?
Nate Bryer: We have learned quite a bit about what it takes to get a RUC program up and running successfully. We have experience running large customer facing products, so the most significant lessons we’ve learned have been around the technology and processes for the actual road usage charging itself, like road differentiation and getting a back office set up to handle the rigors of handling taxes. However, the biggest challenge has not been technology centered, but consumer awareness about the need for road usage charging. There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings of what RUC is and is not. We have found ourselves to be in the position of champions of RUC to help people get up to speed on how roads are paid for now and how RUC will be used in the future – to everyone’s benefit.
MBUFA: What are the keys to consumer acceptance?
Nate Bryer: Every person has his or her own preferences when it comes to sharing sensitive information – especially in regards to their physical location and the government. This is why it is imperative to offer a wide variety of easy mileage collection options from which the different pilot program participants may choose. For example, volunteers in the two current pilots may choose from several options ranging from our Basic device – which is a non-GPS, no-frills-just-the-facts, plug-and-play device – to our Advanced GPS-enabled device with location-based bonus services such as SafeZones. We have also partnered with third party vendors to collect mileage data from an outside mobile app or the vehicle’s pre-existing onboard telematics system.
MBUFA: What do you see as the keys for scaling up these pilots to a state and national level?
Nate Bryer: There are quite a number of things that need to be in place before existing pilots can be scaled to handle a statewide mandate:
- A dedicated team in the state to handle the new program
- Standards for mileage collection that are agreed upon across all states
- Integration with DMVs to ensure seamless verification and enrollment process
As you can imagine, a program such as an alternative funding pilot requires complex billing and payment mechanisms. The government needs an easy-to-follow, error-proof means of collecting data and transforming that data into a reliable billing system for its users. We’ve developed a simple, user-friendly platform which translates all mileage and fuel usage data into clear and succinct road usage billing for consumers and the government alike. And, to make the process even easier, we have a cloud-based solution which subtracts taxes paid at the pump. Then, on the state’s behalf, we automatically invoice the consumer and collect net amounts due via a prepaid wallet system.
MBUFA: What are you learning about the cost of providing a VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) system versus the current excise tax model?
Nate Bryer: We’ve only built a VMT system so I can’t compare it exactly to the current excise tax model, but what I can talk about is that the comparison is not exact beyond the fact that both systems function to bring in money to pay for roads. With a VMT system you can do so much more than what a straight fuel-based taxing system can do. You can pursue things like congestion pricing, dynamic parking and integration with tolling. With this new technology, things like V2V and V2I will be possible which could have a huge impact on driver and pedestrian safety – things that the existing tax system could never hope to achieve.
MBUFA: We are highly focused on developing and refining mileage-based systems but know that the technology and systems involved are a small part of what is happening in the industry. How do mileage-based technologies fit into the future of connected vehicle technology? In addition to the work you are doing in support of the two pilots, can you say more about the future of connected vehicles and the benefits to businesses and drivers?
Nate Bryer: Our connected future, as I imagine it, is here. Today’s technology demands are speeding up as people discover the convenience and money-saving power of connected vehicle systems that improve fuel usage, driver safety and vehicle repair costs. Fleet businesses are becoming more automated with vehicle monitoring systems, maintenance notifications, and driver behavior reports. The technology-centric consumer continues to gain more power through better knowledge of what is happening under the hood with engine diagnostics, remote emissions testing and vehicle health reports.
Consumers today can complete a full array of tasks from their smartphone, such as setting their home thermostats or security cameras with smart home technology. It is no surprise consumer demands are expanding from the home out to the road…
MBUFA: Any prediction about the future of mileage-based systems?
Nate Bryer: My number one prediction isn’t really much of a prediction but rather an observation – and that is doing nothing to replace the current fuel-based taxing system is not an option. So, some sort of mileage-based fee system is going to happen, and when it does it will open the doors to other consumer type products that would not have been possible otherwise. This is an exciting time to be in the connected car space!
Original News item appeared at: archive.constantcontact.com