In the US, every so often, we hear about plans in places like Oregon and California to explore the idea of taxing drivers based on how far they travel using GPS systems enabled in every car. While these discussions generate a lot of publicity (much of it negative), they never seem to go anywhere. However, over in the UK, it sounds like they're a bit more serious about implementing a nationwide system for taxing drivers based on GPS data. Of course, aside from the very serious privacy implications of such a plan, previous complaints pointed out that, unlike a gas tax, a GPS tax does nothing to encourage drivers to use more fuel-efficient vehicles. However, the UK response seems to be that they're going to keep taxing petrol (as they like to call it) on top of this GPS tax. Also, part of the GPS tax would be that it was variable based on time and location. That is, the purpose is more about decreasing congestion, rather than worrying about road wear and tear or too much gas guzzling. So, drivers in the city during rush hour, will find themselves taxed at a much higher rate than the Sunday afternoon driver out in the country. Of course, in some sense, this is a regressive tax as poorer laborers are probably the least likely to have flexibility in setting their work schedules for the sake of avoiding the higher taxes. And, yes, of course, it is worth mentioning the privacy issues we glossed over earlier. Does anyone really think it's a good idea that the government have access to data showing where you are all of the time? The plan is still being discussed in the UK, but it certainly sounds a lot further along than the pie-in-the-sky plans heard about in the US. Of course, should this ever pass, is anyone taking bets on how fast a new industry will open up in the UK for hacking these GPS systems to provide false data?
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