It's Baaaack. Oregon, Once Again, Pursuing GPS Driving Tax

from the bad,-bad-idea dept

It’s been well over five years since we first heard about a plan in Oregon to attach GPS devices to cars and tax drivers based on how much they drove and the idea hasn’t become any better in the intervening years… but apparently it’s still being pushed. Against Monopoly points us to the latest report that Oregon’s Governor is trying to move forward with the plan. One of the reasons behind the bill has nothing to do with a more efficient way to tax drivers, but because the state is gaining less revenue from its gas tax since there are more fuel efficient cars on the roads these days. Of course, rather than reward drivers for driving more fuel efficient cars, this sort of tax punishes them, and actually encourages the use of less fuel efficient vehicles. And, of course, that doesn’t even begin to get into the potential (and likely) privacy problems brought about by any system whereby the government has full access to a GPS system on your car.

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Comments on “It's Baaaack. Oregon, Once Again, Pursuing GPS Driving Tax”

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59 Comments
Twinrova says:

I've said it before...

…and I’ll say it again, because it’s quite clear people are still assuming “privacy” in an open environment:
“that doesn’t even begin to get into the potential (and likely) privacy problems brought about by any system whereby the government has full access to a GPS system on your car.”

If you use GPS, you’re being tracked. Accept it and move on.

This also means, just like anything else in an open environment, you risk having the information used against you.

Don’t want to take this risk? Don’t use open environment systems such as: The internet, cell phones, and debit cards.

Otherwise, don’t complain if your “privacy” was violated.

GSA says:

Re: Re: I've said it before...

Sorry – my reply got chopped mid-sentence by a misinterpreted ‘lessthan’ symbol. Reposting….

“If you use GPS, you’re being tracked. Accept it and move on.”

I get that you are being tracked if you have GPS in your phone, or you use a device that is connected to a service.

BUT, you are going to have to explain you how my sub-$200 Garmin Nuvi – WHICH HAS NO RADIO TRANSMITTER – is capable of sending any data back to anyone without my knowledge. Maybe there’s a secret black-box log data file you could grab by hooking the physical unit up to a PC, but that’s about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I've said it before...

Don’t want to take this risk? Don’t use open environment systems such as: The internet, cell phones, and debit cards……Otherwise, don’t complain if your “privacy” was violated.

If that isn’t a big government left winger talking, I don’t know what it is.

Why don’t you and your ilk move to a country like, oh, say North Korea? where you are watched all the time and all thought is regulated. Do you really want this in your life or do you think you’re somehow above it all?

Idiotic Smasher says:

Re: I've said it before...

You really have no idea how GPS’s work, do you?

Unless your GPS has someway to communicate to record, you are NOT being tracked.

GPS calculates your position based on signals it recieves from a series of satellites orbitting the earth. It RECEIVES signals and then triangulates your position based on 4 or more satellite signals.

Basically… it’s like a radio. A radio receives radio signals and then translates them into music, voice, etc.

A GPS Receiver receives GPS signals and translates that into a position.

In this case, I’m assuming each car would need to be fitted with a gps that records and/or transmits that information back to some home office.

This is an INCREDIBLE violation of privacy as they would literally know exactly where you were and when. Since it’s a government, that data could easily become public data… now EVERYONE knows when you were and when.

Of course… it might cut down on the number of affairs…

Twinrova says:

Re: Re: I've said it before...

“You really have no idea how GPS’s work, do you?”
I do, but apparently you do not.

Take data received from satellite. Take map data stored on your GPS device. Let GPS unit display proper location of map.

The GPS data is stored (and some systems will keep a history).

Give me your GPS receiver and I’ll show you the last 3+ places you’ve been.

So while a GPS system can’t be actively tracked, it most certainly can be used against you.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I've said it before...

Give me a GPS receiver and I’ll show you how to delete the history.

Your argument for a standard GPS unit being capable of tracking people is beyond flimsy and trying to support it by saying that the physical device keeps a history certainly isn’t helping you prove your point. All you’re doing is grasping at straws now.

The privacy arguments are all focused on devices that actively send information back, like a GPS system that reports where you went to another agency. Garmins, TomToms, and similar devices do not fall under that category just because they might have a deletable, recorded history as a convenience feature.

Robert A. Rosenberg (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I've said it before...

What is being talked about is not the portable GPS (such as Garmins, TomToms, and similar devices) but built-in GPS such as OnStar. With OnStar the car can transmit its location via the built-in Cellphone connection. One of the features that is documented is that if the car is stolen, they can call the car to locate it as well as monitor its location. Watch any show like CSI or NCIS and you will see them make use of this capability (and what they show is NOT that more enhanced than the actual capability).

All that is being talked about is being able to “Ping” the car and getting a readout of its current mileage (as opposed to constant monitoring).

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: I've said it before...

Are you an American?

I’m just asking because that’s such a bad attitude for an American to have. Why should anyone simply accept that they’re being tracked? Why shouldn’t we fight back through legal means, like protesting these initiatives and the people and companies who support them? If no one fights or protests, if we all just ‘accept it and move on’, it’ll be 1984 before it’s 2024 and it will be entirely our own damn fault.

I’m assuming that you think that’s an acceptable way to live but I certainly don’t and your fatalistic musings don’t really help anyone. Baaaaaa.

f2point8 says:

Duh!

From http://www.dhonline.com (linked above)
“… the ODOT official in charge of the project, tried to assure the public that tracking people’s travels was not in the plans.”
But plans change depending on the desire of those in control.

“…no travel location points are stored within the vehicle or transmitted elsewhere. Thus there can be no ‘tracking’ of vehicle movements.”
So, why use GPS? What’s wrong with the odometer? eca is right. This is a scheme Rube Golberg would be proud of.

Greg says:

Re: Re:

hike the gas tax? higher gas prices got the US into the economic mess it’s in now.

It’s not the US’s fault other Western States pay more. We WERE paying $4 or more for gas until this mess happened. Now the price is down (here it’s $1.36 – $1.49, depending on where you go) to where it really should be, but could be lower IMNSHO.

So if YOU want to pay more, by all means, pay more, but don’t tell US that WE have to pay a higher tax. Fruit your hole!

Salty says:

Re: SteveD missed the real point

Ok, go green….. then the poor state of Oregon employees would have less money to feed the growing ranks of state employees in ODOT (with all the benefits/retirement involved with them).

Car renewal tags already track mileage every two years (tags that the Oregon officials want to raise).

ODOT is the speed bump in the road to success!

Jason says:

I doubt it ever went away

I like how our government tries to make it sound appealing. It’s bad enough that we can be tracked through debit/credit cards and cellphones, but at least we have a choice of using them. The state wants to force this on us. I have heard talk about this setup being used for taxing people more for driving during busy times and on roads/highways that are used more frequently. It may not be part of the current plan, but since it has GPS it could be easily implemented.

ACLU, where art thou? says:

Big brother at its finest. Instead of applauding the decreased use of carbon-based fuels in Oregon, the state wants to punish energy conservation by taxing actual miles driven. And they want to install intrusive technology in your car. Who thinks of this stuff?
The equipment alone would most likely cost hundreds of dollars per vehicle plus whatever the cell phone carriers would charge to ferry the data. What happens when you drive out of state? Still paying Oregon mileage tax?

This is the equivalent to installing toll booths every mile on every road in America.

Well, if this ever gets through the legislature and all of the court challenges I’m going to patent a magnetic metal cap to cover the GPS antenna.

no says:

Steve:

We already had higher gas prices. Remember? People did go green or didn’t you live here in July?

Stop with the “hike the gas tax” argument. First, I don’t care what people in other western countries pay in taxes to support their bloated socialist economies. This is America. We are much larger geographically and have much less of a mass transit infrastructure. $4.00 gas and its trickle-down effects directly contributed to our recession and the only respite has been lower energy costs due to reduced global demand. So, now, those who feel we don’t pay enough taxes already, want to hike the gas prices back up again. Why? Demand is down. We got rid of our Hummers and drastically reduced our driving. We know in the back of our minds that oil is going back up sooner or later. Conservation is still “in”. Our mindset has changed. Here’s a novel idea: How about the government do its part and reduce, re-use, recycle and most importantly, downsize. How about they learn to operate on a budget like the rest of us?

Bill says:

Re: Re:

Steve, you make a good-point about government getting their act together. Think about all the tax we, as consumers pay. Payroll tax, gas tax, state tax on everything we buy and yet the states and governmant are broke. Can’t anyone be fiscally responsible? Ultimately, we are paying enough taxes and then they always look to add more instead of cutting the fat from budgets. So much for that nice Sunday drive with the family.

Michial (user link) says:

Has anyone considered that road repair has to be paid for?

You here all this crap about rewarding drivers for more fuel efficient cars etc, but has anyone considered how the roads will be paid for.

A Fuel Efficient car is going to do just as much damage to the roads surface as a gas guzzler……

Noone wants to see gas taxes go up, but facts are roads need repaired and the money has to come from somewhere.

Haywood says:

Re: Has anyone considered that road repair has to be paid for?

“A Fuel Efficient car is going to do just as much damage to the roads surface as a gas guzzler……”

Not… The weight of the vehicle is the most significant factor in road wear. A semi-tractor-trailer is taxes so heavily, because it puts so much wear on the road. When you see the sign on the back door proclaiming ” this vehicle pays $4000 per year in road tax” or whatever number, keep in mind that is fair considering how much maintenance & increased load capacity costs to new roads that heavy trucks cause.

Evil Mike says:

Re: Has anyone considered that road repair has to be paid for?

A Fuel Efficient car is going to do just as much damage to the roads surface as a gas guzzler……

Noone wants to see gas taxes go up, but facts are roads need repaired and the money has to come from somewhere.

How about investing tax-payers’ money on roads that take much longer to wear out?

http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS240&=&q=long+lasting+road+surface&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f

KJ says:

seems pretty efficient to me

I don’t know – sounds like a good use of technology to me:

monitor road usage, usage trends, and time of day statistics without human intervention (can’t get that info from an odometer)

efficiently tax based on actual use of a resource

I didn’t realize there were a bunch of Luddites on this forum

kg says:

Re: seems pretty efficient to me

@16:

monitor road usage, usage trends, and time of day statistics without human intervention (can’t get that info from an odometer)

except that is not why the Oregon government is pushing for it, they want higher taxes.

Also, all of the above could be solved some other way than installing prohibitively expensive and intrusive GPS/cell phone equipment in everyone’s car.

Snidely (profile) says:

Not fully buying the argument

Mike said, “Of course, rather than reward drivers for driving more fuel efficient cars, this sort of tax punishes them, and actually encourages the use of less fuel efficient vehicles.”

I don’t see how this tax encourages the use of fuel efficient vehicles. If we leave the intelligence of this idea aside, drivers will still pay less in gas by buying fuel efficient cars. Even if the gas tax is completely removed, there is always an inherent cost for the gas and owners of more efficient cars will pay less per mile driven. I agree with your overall sentiment, but that sentence doesn’t hold up.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Gas taxes

In my state they said that less people were driving so the amount of gas tax revenue was down. The Dem governor said they needed to raise the gas tax to cover the difference to be able to maintain the roads. Umm…if less people are driving then the roads need less maintaining. Damn Democrats! Would it ever hurt to cut a job or two instead of maintaining a bloated government?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Gas taxes

“The Dem governor said they needed to raise the gas tax to cover the difference to be able to maintain the roads. Umm…if less people are driving then the roads need less maintaining. “

Not necessarily. Weather takes a big toll on roads in northern states. Salt, weather take a toll whether the road is being driven on or not.

DS78 says:

Higher Gas in Oregon?!?!

I don’t think hiking the gas tax in Oregon would benefit anyone. First, Oregon is out west and gas is usually higher there anyways. Second, I think Oregon has some law that requires an attendant to pump your gas (no self-serve) so stations compensate for the extra help by upping the price/gal or gas. A tank of gas there could get ridiculous in a hurry.

I went on a business trip there and wasn’t aware of the gas pumping law. I was literally almost tackled by the attendant when I started to try and pump my own gas….

Jon (profile) says:

Re: Higher Gas in Oregon?!?!

I think Oregon has some law that requires an attendant to pump your gas (no self-serve) so stations compensate for the extra help by upping the price/gal or gas. A tank of gas there could get ridiculous in a hurry.

Yes, we do have that law. But I dont think it makes a big difference in the price of gas. In Washington state you can pump your own gas, and if I drive right across the border, gas isnt higher, sometimes its cheaper.

JP says:

Just because its high tech doesnt make it better

every car on the road is already equipped with an odometer, if you are going to tax based on miles driven, why not use that instead of a more complicated (and more expensive) GPS system? I’m guessing because they have other plans in mind for it…Since GPS systems not only track position, but speed, I would picture something like this as among other things, the next generation of “red-light cameras” to automatically track when someone speeds.

Teilo (profile) says:

And that, my friends ...

… is why I will never move back to the state which I so love. And for those who want to defend it based on the “somebody has to pay for the roads” argument: Get real. Do you honestly think that the Oregon gas tax is being dedicated to road maintenance?

Besides: Oregon cannot enforce this on anyone but Oregon citizens. So, the most populous portion of the state is right across the Columbia from Vancouver, Washington. This is an open invitation to move to Washington and continue to work and shop in Oregon.

Oh, and this is the state which BANS pumping your own gas, forcing gas stations to charge higher prices to pay for full service; Legalized assisted suicide, so you can pay someone to off you when you get too depressed (hint: this is sarcasm); Instituted vote-by-mail for the whole state, thus robbing voters of the ability to make last-minute changes to their vote.

I love the state dearly. I miss the mountains, the hidden trout lakes and streams, the tall trees and clean air. And I will never move back.

Nobody says:

Hunh?

“and actually encourages the use of less fuel efficient vehicles”

How do get this? I mean, you are still paying taxes on the gas, so driving a less fuel efficient vehicle would make that go up as well.

They don’t have any plans to eliminate the gas tax do they?

And even if they did, you’d still be paying for more gas! Anyone that would be encouraged to go with a less efficient vehicle because of this tax is an idiot, plain and simple.

Costs too much to die in Oregon says:

It'll cost you 285% more to die in Oregon

Our Governor is on hunt for any money he can get his hands on,any way he can get it. Amongst the many taxes and fees he wants to increase the cost of a death certificate 285%. The Governor wants a boost in corporate taxes and taxes paid by hospitals. He is also proposing a two-cent per gallon hike in Oregon’s gas tax. He wants to boost cigarette taxes by 60 cents per pack. Fees he wants to increase are: Vehicle registration fee: 200%, Title 100%, Hunting License 24% Fishing License 25%, camping 25%, RN License 26% (We have a nurse shortage now too), psychologists license 37% and to get your falconer’s license – it’ll cost you 125% more.
Perhaps those GPS devices are to track businesses and people leaving Oregon for better economic conditions.

There must be something with the names:
Kulongoski
Blagojevich

Pjerky (profile) says:

You misinterpret its affects on fuel efficient vehicle usage.

I am sorry Mike, but I have to disagree with the following assessment of yours:

“Of course, rather than reward drivers for driving more fuel efficient cars, this sort of tax punishes them, and actually encourages the use of less fuel efficient vehicles.”

Think about it this way, when the per gallon cost of gas goes up, so does the demand for more fuel efficient cars. The lower the fuel efficiency of your car, the more you spend PER MILE to drive it. Thus, anything that raises the per mile cost will also raise demand for more fuel efficient vehicles AND lower the number of miles driven on average. The cost per mile for the more fuel efficient cars will be lower than the less fuel efficient cars because you spend less on gas per mile. Since they can’t change the distance traveled tax people will want to cut back on the things they can control, which is the distance they drive and fuel inefficiency.

I have to say that cutting back on both would actually be better for the environment anyway. That said this really just punishes companies and individuals that drive a lot to make money more than anyone else. The pizza delivery guy, the construction worker, the UPS driver, and the big rig drivers will all be punished the most. That is what really makes this a horrible idea, because the grunt workers of our society will be affected the most by this and they usually make a little more than enough to make ends meet. This could lead to more job losses. Way to go Oregon.

On the privacy issue, unless the GPS unit has the ability to transmit data wirelessly there is no real privacy concern. Actually a GPS device would be easier for people to tamper with than an odometer and would be costlier to implement. There is probably nothing smart about this law.

MichaelD (profile) says:

This would also help out ..

insurance companies like Progressive. You remember the whole pay-as-you-drive thing.

http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2008/07/28/pay-as-you-drive-insurance-catching-on/

This way they wouldn’t have to have their customers send in their little data trackers, they could just ask the government for the info and force everyone to use this service.

I fear privacy is a thing of the past.

BMF (user link) says:

I am a subject in a study on this very issue

I am a participant in the Road User Study being conducted by the University of Iowa:

http://www.roaduserstudy.org/

I let them install a GPS and transmitter in my car. In general I am against the idea of this sort of tax but I am in favor of having some actual data to prove or disprove the effectiveness of it and what it means to drivers.

I have quizzed the people who built the device and conduct the study at the University of Iowa. The device in the study occasionally transmits how many miles you drive in which counties. It also transmits the fuel level. I input how much fuel I put into the gas tank on a little keypad when I fill up so they can determine how much fuel I use. If this ever went into production I’m sure the fuel gauge would be integrated into the system so manual inputs would be unnecessary.

It does not transmit any lat/long nor does it constantly transmit. If I had a mistress or robbed a bank or whatever the device would be of no use in any investigation. In the equipment installed in my car I could actually plug into the GSM transmitter and see the actual data being transmitted if I wanted to although I don’t because I don’t want to disturb their equipment and mess up the study.

As for why couldn’t they just use the odometer: They cited fraud and people turning back the odometer. I don’t know if I really believe that is going to happen much but maybe I underestimate the lengths people will go to.

If this form of tax ever came into use (and I really doubt it will due to all of the misunderstandings of how GPS works as demonstrated by posts on this page) many will will insist that the hardware and software be 100% open source so that we can audit it and ensure that it is doing the right thing. Otherwise we will end up with a Diebold-style disaster for sure.

I suspect that this is an overly complicated solution to a simple and already solved problem (fuel tax). If more efficient cars are causing us not to be able to maintain our roads due to less income increase the tax. But I would like to see some numbers indicating that this is really the case. I see a ton of SUV’s on the roads. Just as many as ever. This study has been in the works for YEARS and is finally only now happening. It has nothing to do with the recent economic problems or the price of gas.

I look forward to the results of the study.

Rob says:

I have no idea why Oregan is instituting such a nutty idea.

1. We are in an era where we want to encourage fuel efficiency. Its a no brainer to increase the gas tax. And no I am not advocating European style rates, just enough to pay for needed for road maintenance.

2. For all you right wingers out there – what about oil and energy security. Don’t we want to consume the least amount of oil possible? National security….patriotism…. Or does driving a hummer take priority over saving the country???

3. Using a gas tax is much cheaper and simpler than GPS. Why introduce new gadgets with new potential problems?

4. As was said above there tends to be a correspondence between the weight of a car and its fuel efficiency and thus it is fair that a huge tractor trailer ends up paying a lot more gas tax.

5. Talk about loss of privacy.
a) A GPS road navigator will let you know where you are but not let anyone else know where you are. It is NOT a two way GPS.

b) A cell phone GPS is only checked when someone makes the effort to find out where the phone is in real time. The system that Oregon is proposing would always track where you went ALL the time and then record the data. It’s taking government monitoring to the next level.

6. I am sure the state government will use the system to give traffic tickets for everything: speeding, stop signs, traffic lights etc. This is government run amuck.

bellsnoel says:

I've said it before...

Anyone question that high cost of gas is causing lost revenue? What about the taxing the road travelers that are just passing through, but do so on a regular basis, I.e.washington to oregon and back. Everyday. I am in the position where we cannot afford to buy new cars. So are many of the people we know and see everyday, so the lost revenue is not due to new cars but less driving. So now they punish us for using less fuel to save money. When do we ever get ahead? Oregon already taxes semi trucks for every mile they run and they do not need to use gps to do this.

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