UK Looking Seriously At GPS-Based Driver Taxation

from the driving-while-intaxicated dept

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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Comments on “UK Looking Seriously At GPS-Based Driver Taxation”

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Spunky says:

No Subject Given

If you’re from the UK, or have been following the news on this they are estmiating that it could cost up to ?1.60 ($2.91) per mile on busy roads during rush hour. That would equate to ?320 ($582) for a 200 mile journey. That’s just for taxation and obviously does not include petrol costs and other taxation costs.

Way to go Ken, maybe you really will be able to stop poor people driving and force them onto the already overcrowded, failing public tranport services – I can’t wait!

Bob Dole says:

It gets even better

The main purpose of this scheme is to impose “congestion charges” on every driver, just as is done in London currently. When congestion charges are put to a vote, they lose. The residents of Edinburgh, Scotland rejected it by a 3-1 margin. This forced other cities to dump their plans.

Now this plan will accomplish that goal of punishing drivers who want individual freedom as opposed to centralized mass transit, and the foundation will be laid without recourse to the voters. See, the Labour gov’t was re-elected last month and they didn’t bother mentioning this scheme until yesterday. Nice work.

Ivan Sick says:

No Subject Given

This tax perhaps isn’t a bad idea, given the following conditions:
1. It is not based on GPS data but a count of distance driven. This maintains privacy better and is simpler data to transmit. No one goes into congested driving conditions because they have a choice.
2. Public transportation is efficient, provides better-than-adequate coverage of the area, and is very low cost, or free. Perhaps this tax could go towards pub-trans funding? (duh) No politician, (or private transporation authority) of course, will ever accept this.

Tim (user link) says:

Re: No Subject Given

1) I get 6l / 100km fuel economy. Why should I pay 50-100x more than I do currently in being-shafted-by-the-government-factor, *PLUS* the cost of fuel (about 20p out of the 87p/litre it currently costs)?

2) My driving habits are mostly weekend trips around the countryside or the occasional (two-monthly) long-haul trek (200-500mi). Driving a diesel, my TCO is about 35% less (per month over lifetime of a vehicle) than the national average car-owner, and I pollute less. If you think I would accept any form of public transport clogging up the roads and wrecking the scenery at Loch Katrine, you’ve got another think coming.


0) 30% of space on motorways is wasted because moronic drivers fail to pull left a lane in a timely fashion

-1) It would be more realistic to say that the car is the most flexible transport provider, and therefore we should abandon the public transport that only treats humans like freight/cattle at the best of times, or inconveniences people in their hundreds when it runs late / breaks down / doesn’t go where they want, and invest more in the road infrastructure altogether. I, for one, don’t mind living with the occasional traffic-jam, if there are reasonably frequent escape-routes along the way.

-2) rather than going around violating our right to privacy by shoving GPS reporting units in our cars, why don’t they consider just sticking the occasional toll-booth at intervals along motorways, like the French?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Sure, no one wants to get taxed more or have the government track their driving habits, but, in theory, this is definitely a good idea

Most of the problems we’re facing in the US, and, probably, in the UK, as well, with respect to traffic, congestion, etc, stem from the fact that there is really no incentive to live close to work. The fact that driving 30 miles to work puts that much additional strain on the infrastructure and delays everyone else is not adequately accounted for. Otherwise, people would not move that far from their office and we’d all be able to get to work a lot faster, there’d be a ton less traffic and we’d be able to use all the extra gas for mowing the steppes.

In theory, there should be some sort of reasonable alotment for a daily commute, like 10 miles. If your commute is shorter, you should get a refund. If your commute is longer, you should get taxed. If you really want to live in a cheaper suburban house, the rest of us shouldn’t have to subsidize it by wasting time sitting in traffic. Once people with 60 mile commutes begin to have to pay for going all that way, the way-out-in-the-suburbs house will stop seeming as cheap and its true cost will be shifted to the consumer. If you still want it, that’s fine. But that way you’re really paying for it yourself instead of everyone else chipping in by sitting in traffic with you.

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