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California Wants GPS Tracking Device in Every Car 1351

HTS Member writes "California has a new excuse for more taxes. Claiming losses due to fuel-efficient cars, such as Gasoline/Electric Hybrids, California is cooking-up a new system to punish people who aren't using enough gasoline. They want to tax commuters by the mile. How would this be accomplished? By requiring everyone to install a GPS device in their vehicle, and charge them their "taxes" every time they fuel-up. From the article: 'Drivers will get charged for how many miles they use the roads, and it's as simple as that.. [a] team at Oregon State University equipped a test car with a global positioning device to keep track of its mileage. Eventually, every car would need one.'"
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California Wants GPS Tracking Device in Every Car

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  • Patriot Act (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:49PM (#11681212) Homepage Journal
    They want to tax commuters by the mile. How would this be accomplished? By requiring everyone to install a GPS device in their vehicle,

    I am hardly a tin foil hat wearing type but, the problem with this is that like every other means to create databases that track/document individuals or groups, they will eventually end up being mined for data that will likely violate your right to privacy. Just remember, Bush is pushing for the Patriot Act again and databases like this will simply be folded into devices like the Patriot Act.

    As an aside: gawd, I hate their use of "patriot" that way, does anybody know the etymology of the word "patriot" with respect to this legislation? Whose idea was it to use "patriot" and why? It seems like the worst/most transparent type of label possible for such a group of laws that seek to strip away personal freedoms and rights to privacy.

    • A lot less invasive (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tsiangkun ( 746511 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:51PM (#11681244) Homepage
      Why not have the car's mileage checked annually and just get a tax statement then ? I don't have a problem with the concept of people who use the roads paying more for the roads . . . I just don't want to be tracked everywhere I go.
      • by def ( 87618 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:53PM (#11681283) Homepage
        I suspect they only want to tax your use of california roads, not any road you drive on.
        • by anonicon ( 215837 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:59PM (#11681406)
          You're new around here, aren't you? ;-)

          Actually, given state governments' needs for more funds since federal funding is drying up, I wouldn't be surprised if California wanted to tax people on every mile they drove, then make its residents *prove* they didn't drive those miles in California.

          • by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:11PM (#11681632)
            I wouldn't be surprised if California wanted to tax people on every mile they drove, then make its residents *prove* they didn't drive those miles in California.

            But how would that allow them to accomplish their real goal of tracking you everywhere you go?

          • This idea came from Oregon, and is entirely wacky. Yes, people will need tinfoil, but not for their hats, for their GPS antennas. A tiny bit of tinfoil will render the GPS completely inoperative.

            Those who want corruption attack the weak states first. Oregon state government has become, in my opinion, very corrupt, so that's where the corrupters try their stupid ideas.

            Apparently, this has very little to do with "a team at Oregon State University". That's just to give the idea a little credibility. If I remember correctly, the people behind it want to sell the electronics.

            Suppose there is a system like this and it records that a teenager drove 10,000 miles in the mountains of Peru last month? What could the government do about that? There would be no taxes in California or Oregon for driving in Peru, would there?

            A system like this would make war drivers very, very happy. They could make a very simple electronic device that would send GPS signals to every car as they drove looking for wireless connections. Can you imagine the court cases:

            Accused: But judge, the records show that I was calmly driving north on I-5, and then one hour later I was driving more than 100 miles per hour through the streets of Moscow.

            Judge: Will you certify for the court that you are not an alien with extraterrestrial means of transport?

            Accused: Yes.

            Judge: Case dismissed.

            Anyhow, this story is a dupe of a dupe, by a Slashdot editor, Michael, who was duped:

            Oregon Considers GPS-based Road Taxes []

            More on Oregon and GPS-tracked Gas Taxes []

            If you would like to read more about my part-time, unfinished investigation of state government corruption, see The idea cannot work. So why do they propose it? []

            This story should scare you, even if you don't live in the United States. Two men, whose family and business associates and friends have extensive investments in global oil businesses, are president and vice-president of the entire U.S. government. The president is a not-too-smart partier and heavy drinker who has been arrested three times. The vice-president also has been a heavy drinker and has been arrested twice for drunken driving.

            Knowing all this, think how corrupt the lower governments must be.

            Some of the Bush and Cheney arrest records. []
      • Yeah, but how do they know you were driving in state? How do they know you weren't doing laps around your own property?

        That said, this is total bullshit. The day somebody wants to put a tracking device in my car is the day I buy a pistol.

      • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:02PM (#11681460) Homepage Journal
        You just made me think of something. What if I drive my truck on my own private dirt roads 99% of the time? Should I get taxed for all those miles not on a public road? Or are there not enough private roads in California for this to be a problem? :-)
        • This is why they probably want GPS.

          I much simplier solution to just logging miles would be to just use the odometer. The problem with that is if you drive out of state or on private property then you would be paying CA taxes. The GPS would have enough information to insure you were only taxed when using public roads.

          Now, I think this is totally overkill. The odometer solution would be equivalent to the previous gas tax. Your essentially paying for how many miles you drive.

          Generally I'm all for use ta
      • by temojen ( 678985 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:15PM (#11681704) Journal
        That's close to what I was going to say (but simpler). You beat me to it; That'll teach me to wander off and actually do work.

        Unfortunately, taxing by mile does not take into acount that some vehicles inherently put more wear on the road than others. It'd be quite unfair to assign the same road maintenance cost/mile to a user of a Honda Nighthawk [] or Geo Metro [] as a Ford Super Duty [].

        In a hybridless all fossil-fuel powered economy, fuel consumption is an acceptable proxy for road wear. Unfortunately, this goes out the window when hybrid and non-fossil fuel powered vehicles are introduced. One way to get around this might be to scale the mileage tax by the mass of the vehicle. Unfortunately this doesn't distinguish between those who use their Ford Super Duty to commute and those who use it to haul rocks around. Both pay the same amount for "road wear" despite the fact that the rock hauler is doing a lot more wear than the commuter.

        Then again, it may serve as a dis-encentive to using a vehicle like the Super Duty to commute, which would be a good thing.

        It also doesn't distinguish between mileage used in the taxable jurisdiction, and that used in other jurisdictions.... long-haul truckers are unfairly punished.

        • Unfortunately this doesn't distinguish between those who use their Ford Super Duty to commute and those who use it to haul rocks around.

          Fortunately, the ratio of people needing it as a penile extension versus people that actually need it (i.e contractors) is pretty slanted towards the former.
    • by StateOfTheUnion ( 762194 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:52PM (#11681261) Homepage
      Speaking of tin foil hats . . . I'd just get a tin foil hat for the GPS antenae . . . Then as far as CA government is concerned; my car never left home.
    • Re:Patriot Act (Score:5, Informative)

      by GlassHeart ( 579618 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:52PM (#11681273) Journal
      does anybody know the etymology of the word "patriot" with respect to this legislation?

      It is actually the USA PATRIOT Act, which is an acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism".

    • Re:Patriot Act (Score:4, Interesting)

      by John Harrison ( 223649 ) <johnharrison@gma ... m minus language> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:55PM (#11681330) Homepage Journal
      Wouldn't it just be easier to just raise the gas tax? Another alternative that would be less invasive would be to make people pay a different tax rate based on the mileage their car gets. Another way would be to make it part of the inspection process. When you take your car in for inspection they take down the mileage. It seems like there are lots of solutions to this that don't involve putting a GPS in every car.
      • Re:Patriot Act (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ThosLives ( 686517 )
        Gasoline tax is already a scaling on fuel efficiency; you have a more fuel-efficient vehicle, you pay less gas tax (because you use less gas).

        What they are wanting is to increase revenue ostensibly for the purpose of road maintenance. The appropriate place to do this is vehicle registrations: road wear and tear is a function of vehicle weight generally, not how many miles you travel. My vehicle grosses about 2800lbs when I'm sitting in it; that's going to do orders of magnitude less damage to the roads tha

    • by FalconZero ( 607567 ) * <[FalconZero] [at] []> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:55PM (#11681336)
      Well at least they'd be able to inforce the speed limits easily....
      I can see it now, you get to the petrol pump and it says

      Welcome to Texaco
      Your total bill including fuel, taxes and fines is $600.
      Please insert your credit card here.
      • by ragingmime ( 636249 ) < minus punct> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:21PM (#11681840) Homepage
        With the FastLane toll-paying transimtters here in Massachussets, the government tracks how long it takes you to get from one toll booth to another. From there, you can calculate the average speed of the car between the two booths. I this isn't theoretical; the government actually does it. I know someone who got a speeding ticket in the mail but was never pulled over; it turned out that his Fast Lane reciever had signalled that he was speeding.

        I can deal with that because FastLane is an optional convenience. If California's transmitters become mandatory and they do track people's speeds (which seems likely), I see that as a serious invasion of privacy. Could they use these GPS devices to track criminals with a warrant? Might these transmitters fall under portions of the USA Patriot act that allow wiretapping and such without a warrant? (That's not a rhetorical question; INAL and I seriously don't know). I understand that California needs tax money to keep the roads in good condition, and it makes sense that the people who drive on them should have to pay for them. But there are some major problems with the way this is being done. If these transmitters become mandatory and nobody makes sure that the law protects our privacy, then we could have an invasion of privacy like none other on our hands.
        • by Colgate2003 ( 735182 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:31PM (#11682002) Homepage
          MA does not track your speed using Fastlane. I work in Massachusetts and talk about RFID as part of my job. However, you can get a ticket for speeding through a toll booth if you have a Fastlane tag. There are RADAR guns next to the lanes, and if you exceed the 15mph limit, you get a ticket in the mail. In this case the Fastlane tag is only used to identify you, while the RADAR is measuring your speed.
          • Nice of you to clear that up! Very interesting.

            On a side note, even in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they have for years had a camera under a bypass mailing people a picture of their car while speeding, and the ticket for speeding.

            Not as Orwellian as being id'd by Fastlane detection, but similar. So I don't see why one would scare people more than the other.

    • Re:Patriot Act (Score:5, Informative)

      by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:57PM (#11681367)
      I'm confused as to how you track people with a GPS device. GPS is _passive_. All GPS satellites do is emit a signal. They can't track anyone - the Pentagon has zero idea of how many people are using GPS at any particular time, let alone who they are.

      The state could conceivably rig the _device_ to remember where you were, which is a problem, but properly designed, the state could simply have it remember mileage. GPS is very good at determing velocity (and acceleration).

      Additionally, if this was a self-reporting tax (ie, show the number on the LCD to the tax man), potential for abuse would also be minimized.

      This is not to say CA's idea is a good one, but I get annoyed when people see "GPS" and assume that means they are being tracked.

      • Re:Patriot Act (Score:3, Insightful)

        by |/|/||| ( 179020 )
        Yeah, but it would have to track your position to know when you're driving on a CA state road. I suppose you could have a black box in your car that simply recorded miles_driven_on_ca_roads as a number, but the whole idea stinks.

        Theoretically you could design the system so that it can't be abused (by the state), but you'd end up having to make it completely abusive in order to prevent loopholes. What if your black box happens to get reset on accident (regularly)? If it's checked at the gas station, what

      • Re:Patriot Act (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ryosen ( 234440 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:22PM (#11681858)
        The device is passive but is self-aware as to its location. They could easily configure it so that each device contains an RFID tag that communicates statistics to the pump (ala Exxon/Mobil's SpeedPass). The travel data could also be stored in the car's black box (all have them since 1996).

        To echo some previous posts, I can also definately see this as a means for traffic enforcement. It's a trivial thing for a GPS unit to track your speed.

        What I find asinine is the duality in California's attitude towards energy conservation. They want everyone to conserve (turn down your A/C, use less water, drive fuel-efficient cars) but penalize you when you do. Here's an idea to raise some cash - cut the graft rampant in the administration.

        This unfairly favors out-of-state drivers, too, who will not be subjected to the tax, as they wouldn't have the GPS monitor in their car. What's the state going to do - hand them out at the border?

        The danger of this, of course, is that this will catch on in other states. That would take care of the pesky out-of-state driver and would be a boon for the state governments as they create even more wasteful departments and committees while they try to figure out who owes what for driving where.

        The end result of this will be the general perception that, gallon for gallon, fuel-efficient cars are taxed more than standard cars.

        Introducing the 2006 Chrysler Harrison-Bergeron.....
      • Re:Patriot Act (Score:3, Interesting)

        by harrkev ( 623093 )

        I'm confused as to how you track people with a GPS device. GPS is _passive_. All GPS satellites do is emit a signal. They can't track anyone - the Pentagon has zero idea of how many people are using GPS at any particular time, let alone who they are.

        Simple. The GPS receiver can also be programmed with the coordinates of the state borders. As you drive, increase the milage count as long as you are within the state. The processor which does the counting would also have some sort of radio transmitter/rec

        • NPR [] had a story about this [] last month. First off, it's Oregon that's driving this project, not California, although California's interested in Oregon's results. Second, Oregon is currently testing a system that will work much like Mobil's SpeedPass system. Essentially, you'll have a GPS device in your car that'll keep track of where you drive. It can log your miles into zones. When you buy gas, it uploads the mileage info to the pump which then automagically adds the appropriate tax to your gas purcha

      • Re:Patriot Act (Score:3, Informative)

        by jmanforever ( 603829 )
        "I get annoyed when people see "GPS" and assume that means they are being tracked."

        If you use a digital cell phone, your location from GPS is sent to the cellular site, and recorded. You are being tracked. They could just as easily do this with GPS in your car - On*Star already does.

        A new law promoted by the cellular phone companies as a "safety issue for 911 calls" requires ALL new phones to have location identification built in. Of course the REAL reason they got this law to pass was to get rid of an
    • Re:Patriot Act (Score:5, Interesting)

      by I_Love_Pocky! ( 751171 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:20PM (#11681812)
      I am hardly a tin foil hat wearing type

      Speaking of tin foil, what's to prevent someone from wrapping their GPS receiver in a material that would prevent it from communicating with a GPS Satellite? Aside from the privacy issues raised by this technology, I think it would be highly ineffective.

      Besides, I disagree with this on general principle. I'm fine with the idea that everyone should pay for the roads, and those who use them more should pay more, but that is because every time you drive, you damage the road somewhat. The problem is that most of these fuel efficient cars are fairly light, and don't cause as much damage as large vehicles.

      The only way this would be fair is if the weight of the vehicle was some how factored into the cost of the miles driven (the lighter the car, the lower the cost per mile).
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:49PM (#11681222)
    I am instituting use of the Slashdot search feature to accurately track Slashdot duplicates and tax appropriately:

    November 17, 2004 [] was your first offense. A warning was sent via email prior to the story posting on February 15th, 2005 at 2:39pm CST but daddypants ignored our notification.

    Please note that future violations will result in a hefty fine! ;-)
  • Annual Inspection (Score:3, Insightful)

    by degraeve ( 780907 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:50PM (#11681233) Homepage
    Why not just read the mileage once a year when you get your car inspected and base the taxes off that?
  • Never happen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cyberglich ( 525256 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:50PM (#11681234)
    what are the smoking!!! I have a GPS and I can tell you this will NEVER work. 1. GPS is useless in areas with lots f tall buildings like Boston for example (my last trip there my gps was a total joke. Jamming the receiver would be a piece of cake do to the low power nature of it and if they try to get clever and make it so my car won't go with out a signal there going to be a lot of cars stuck in parking structures.
    • Re:Never happen (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:27PM (#11681952)
      It doesn't matter if it will work or not. What's important is that we'll soon be flooded with "H1d3 Y0ur Dr1v1ng H15t0ry" spam for sites selling tinfoil-based "car tax privacy shields" that go over the receiver's antenna.
    • Re:Never happen (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:39PM (#11682143)
      what are the smoking!!! I have a GPS and I can tell you this will NEVER work. 1. GPS is useless in areas with lots f tall buildings like Boston for example (my last trip there my gps was a total joke

      1. GPS stopped working at point a, and started working at point b. Measure the distance and tax'em.

      2. Annual inspection. If there is a major difference between GPS miles and odometer miles... and if those miles can't be associated with out of state miles... tax'em.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm with you. They are creating a very complex system to tax based on miles traveled rather than the more simple system of taxing based on fuel used. This is 100% dumb as it discourgaes the use lighter fuel efficent cars that cause less wear and tear on the road. The concern with a loss tax revenue as a result of people buying more fuel efficent cars is legit and they need to raise the damn fuel tax.

      The real problem is people in political office don't seem to think it's fair that their vehicels with larger than 5 liter engines should pay more money than econoboxes with sub 2 liter engines failing to take into account that they polute more air and tear up more road than a cheaper import. I argue that it's perfectly fair to give econoboxes a huge tax break for poluting less.

  • That's not a tax. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Red Rocket ( 473003 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:51PM (#11681260)

    That's a user fee.
    Pay-per-mile highways.
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:52PM (#11681264) Homepage Journal
    Should there be a per-book checkout tax to help fund the libraries? How about taxing people more if their kid's teacher spends more time helping them than the other kids (10 cents per question answered)? I like the idea of higher taxes for people who use the road more since they are contributing more wear and tear to the roads, however applying this kind of mentality in every case doesn't sound like a good idea.

    By the way, rather than a GPS unit on every car, why not just institute a smart toll system instead? Wouldn't this be cheaper, not to mention not being quite as scary from a privacy standpoint?

    • By the way, rather than a GPS unit on every car, why not just institute a smart toll system instead?

      And would you have to have such a system to be allowed to enter California via vehicle? Illinios and various other states at least just toll you at toll booths as you use the highways, regardless of where you're from or what equipment you have. It's annoying to have to stop every so many miles, but it works. It seems like California residents would get the shaft if out of staters were tearing up their roads

  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:52PM (#11681272)
    Claiming losses due to fuel-efficient cars, such as Gasoline/Electric Hybrids,

    After decades of pushing for more fuel efficient cars, now they want to punish you for owning them.

    And the next logical step will have to be requiring drivers to have them just to drive in from out of state.

    Then the Federal government will have to standardize the units so that Oregon units cross-operate with California units.

    Followed by insurance companies using them to determine not only how much you drive now (which is often done by the odometer), but do you drive in more dangerous areas, and hence should be charged more.

    It will never end, except the the consumer will pay and pay and pay for something they never wanted in the first place!

    • The stated purpose (to pay for road usage) is preposterous. Simply raising the gas tax would accomplish the same goal and with more appropriate weighting (larger vehicles do more damage) and a much Much MUCH lower administrative cost (net change of zero, since gas tax is already being collected).

      Therefore, the stated purpose is false, and there is another reason for this method. To subsidize SUV owners? Police surveillance? Bribe from GPS makers?

      Sheesh, those are all just plain weird. It must be the RAND
    • ... Why not raise the tax on a gallon of gasoline instead?

      The proposed system makes no sense because people who drive more fuel-efficient cars will pay more mileage tax per GALLON than people who drive gas guzzlers. That's a strange way of encouraging more fuel-efficient cars.

      Raising the tax on a gallon of gasoline would be simpler and actually promote fuel efficiency.
  • Joy. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tuxedo Jack ( 648130 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:53PM (#11681288) Homepage
    This smacks of influence by the oil industry to hold on to its revenues while the people are moving to more efficient alternatives (hybrid cars).

    It's not like you can't find the GPS unit and remove it, or just disconnect it so it won't show up until the annual inspection.

    And here in Texas, there's an alternative to it - tollways. Beltway 8, the Westpark Tollway - they get tons of traffic every day, and at a buck-twenty-five a stop, they rake in plenty of cash, too.
    • Re:Joy. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Politburo ( 640618 )
      This smacks of influence by the oil industry to hold on to its revenues while the people are moving to more efficient alternatives (hybrid cars).

      Put down the pipe.

      This is a state proposal to fund the state's transportation fund. Gas taxes pay for roads. If you aren't buying gas, you're not paying for the roads. They want to stop that. This obviously isn't the best way to do it, but to claim that the oil industry has anything to do with this is pretty far out there, since they don't stand to benefit from
  • Brilliant! (Score:4, Funny)

    by justforaday ( 560408 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:53PM (#11681289)
    Wow! This is such a great idea! I don't know why nobody came up with it first! As a strong supporter, I would like to nominate my company, TrackingStats4Sale, to aggregate and manage the information that's gathered from this.
  • by Iphtashu Fitz ( 263795 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:54PM (#11681295)
    Here in Massachusetts the powers-that-be routinely go after people who live in the state but register their cars out of state, usually up in New Hampshire. Mass. has some strict regulations about auto insurance, but NH doesn't require insurance at all. So some people who live near the border with NH register their cars in NH. It also saves on state excise taxes. Of course once or twice a year the local news carries stories of how the police troll the neighborhoods looking for cars with NH license plates parked in MA driveways so that they can give out tickets (if the same car is seen there multiple days). I can see a similar huge upswell of out-of-state registrations in CA if this draconian Big Brother law is passed.
  • by MicroBerto ( 91055 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:54PM (#11681302)
    I think this has already been mentioned here, but here's my solution:

    Don't live in California.

    This is going to do so much damage to costs in business (think of anything that delivers). Why would I want to start my business in Cali when I can be far more successful in other states? I personally won't support it.

    It's also hypocritical. It punishes success.

  • No problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:55PM (#11681332) Homepage Journal

    Just fit one of these [] above the antenna. You can fake any journey or lack thereof that you choose.

  • Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackmonday ( 607916 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:55PM (#11681338) Homepage
    This is just stupid. What if you own a large ranch and drive around in it, not on public roads? What if you drive on (private) toll road freeways, like the one we have in Southern California? What about the people who will obviously find a hack for the system? What if you pick up your gas in a large plastic tank and avoid paying fees? This is ridiculous, and whoever thought this up should face electoral consequences.

    • by duranaki ( 776224 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:23PM (#11681877)
      Goon1: We're going to start losing money from gas tax with all these damn hybrids... and don't get me started on electrics.
      Goon2: Right you are. Let's start taxing based on mileage instead.
      Goon3: Well that just sucks. You could drive half your miles in Arizona and get taxed in CA for that.
      Goon1: Good point. Any solution to that?
      Goon2: Well, I own stock in this company that has a lot of IPR in GPS equipment...
      Goon3: How can I get in on that?
      Goon1: Hold it! Let's *all* call our brokers before we go any further. We'll meet back next week.
      Week passes...
      Goon1: Ok. I propose we force everyone to install GPS modules into their cars.
      Goon3: I second!
      Goon4: Really? Isn't that just adding a horrendous one time tax to all car buyers? Increasing the number of goons needed to police the system...
      Goon5: Hey! I'm one of those goons.
      Goon4: Oh yeah. Sorry 5.. I know you'd never make it in the private sector. I guess I'll vote for it.
      Goon3: Anyone worried about the people getting pissed?
      All Goons: Laughter...
  • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:56PM (#11681343) Homepage
    Installing a GPS tracking device in each vehicle is a sure violation of privacy. That device could be used to monitor where, not just how far, each person travels.

    A much better way to handle this problem is to simply track the number of miles that each vehicle is driven, from the moment that the vehicle has Californian license plates. California already has a system for mandatory smog checks. The technicians at the smog station transmit the results of the smog checks directly to the state computer system.

    The technicians could also tranmit the odometer reading as well. Then, the state government could simply determine the number of miles that you have driven the car since the last smog check and could then send you a bill for the use of Californian roads.

  • Yeah - that's fair (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ripetersen ( 526485 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:56PM (#11681345) Homepage
    So both my Ford Focus and Giant Urban Assault Vehicle get to pay the same tax, sure the UAV uses more gas, and tears up the road more, but if we both put 50 miles on the cars, then we both get taxed the same.
  • Ultra-hypocritical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StateOfTheUnion ( 762194 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:56PM (#11681353) Homepage
    So the same government that is mandating zero emission and reduced emission car sales is now trying to take away the consumer incentive for high efficiency vehicles? This is blatantly hypocritical . . .

    I would be in favor of jacking up the gasoline tax instead. This would put more pressure on the enviromental offenders that drive SUV's and other inefficient vehicles. Afraid that this will punish businesses? Give them a tax credit or tax rebate for business vehicles that are legitimately needed for the business.

  • by fastpage ( 125435 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:57PM (#11681373)
  • by EnronHaliburton2004 ( 815366 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @04:58PM (#11681396) Homepage Journal
    This article smells of Sensationalism. Note the lack of detail in the article.

    Officials in car-clogged California are so worried they may be considering a replacement for the gas tax altogethe

    Who are these "Officials"? The Governor of California? A low-level bereaucrat? There are plenty of low-level bereaucrat in sector 7-G who consider ideas which never really materialize.

    Changing the tax structure at this level in California or Oregon would require some approval by the State sentate and legistlature.

    Smells of sensationalism ...
    • It was a trial balloon floated last year, and it was hit by about seven million rounds of heavy ordinance from a unusually bipartisan array of sources. Rights groups stated flat out that they would have it tied up in court for the next five centuries. It ain't gonna happen.
    • This isn't sensationalism. It's a brain-dead reflexive babbling.

      The article poster shrieked that taxing people by the mile is "punish[ing] people who aren't using enough gasoline"? Nonsense. It's switching from a gas-use tax to a road-use tax. Those of us who save gasoline the old-fashioned way (by not driving our cars hither and yon) wouldn't be punished by it at all. And since gas taxes have traditionally been justified as being necessary for road construction/repairs, switching to a road-use tax m

  • faraday car (Score:3, Funny)

    by jgercken ( 314042 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:00PM (#11681432)
    Sir, why is your car completely wrapped in aluminum foil?
  • Prius vs. Yukon (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:01PM (#11681438) Homepage Journal
    So a tiny, lightweight, low-torque Prius should pay the same taxes as a huge, heavy, high-torque Yukon - even though its lower weight and acceleration forces impart much less wear on the road surface? If so, then what's the point of paying extra for a high-efficiency vehicle?

    That's just great. I think state senators need to have "REMEMBER THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES" tattooed onto their butts.

  • Obvious Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wren337 ( 182018 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:09PM (#11681603) Homepage

    If revenues are falling because cars are getting more efficient, why not encourage the trend by raising the per-gallon tax? That would increase the pressure on anyone driving a hummer and make better fuel efficiency revenue-nuetral. Make it automatic, by changing it to a total dollar amount and having it calculated yearly based on the prior years gas sales.
  • Isn't part of the reason that one would tax gasoline to get lower milage cars on the road? Especially in polution ridden CA?

    They could always raise the gasoline tax more and then allow right offs for business purposes.

    Or use incom tax to add. Or do what the insurance industry does and ask what your commute is and tax you based on it, audit enough that people won't lie. It can't cost too much to verify and address and then verify a place of work. With any luck an innitiative such as that would help reverse suburban sprawl and urban decay.
  • by gothzilla ( 676407 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:21PM (#11681844)
    There are roads that are not maintained by the government, and many people drive out of state on a regular basis. Sure it would be easy to read the odometer but that also counts the miles you drove on your private property if you have it, the miles driven in the private community that maintains it's own raods, and the miles driven around Las Vegas that one weekend. GPS allows them to set up tax/no-tax zones and is really the only way (besides toll booths) to keep things fair.
  • by Insightfill ( 554828 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:32PM (#11682023) Homepage
    Don't forget, Oregon is also the state where they both give you a tax credit for buying a hybrid, but charge you double for annual vehicle registration if you try to license one.

    Like this. []

  • Missing the point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:33PM (#11682037) Homepage Journal
    I've seen a few people suggest that they use the odometer for such taxes. If in fact tax refenue was the true objective, they would. When you get renew your yearly registration they could tell you how much you owe.

    The real point is to get people used to the idea that it's OK for the government to track your every movement. As soon as people accept something like this, how long do you think it will be before they mandate chips under our skin?

    It's not about taxes, it's about acclimation.

  • by prgrmr ( 568806 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:35PM (#11682061) Journal
    In addition to the GPS being a potentially unlawful search, the tax, if deemed to be prohibitive, may be a breach of the US Citizens' right to travel. IANAL, but this site [] offers a perspective that may be applicable to this situation.
  • SUV stooges (Score:4, Insightful)

    by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:38PM (#11682108)
    I've always felt that the gas tax is one of the fairest taxes around. Not perfect, but pretty good. The wear and tear you put on the roads is generally related to three things: 1) how far you drive, 2) how heavy your car is and 3) how you drive (hard vs. gentle acceleration, etc.)

    In each of those three cases added road wear equals additional fuel use.

    Given the government's actions to promote fuel economy and reduce air pollution (I just got a letter from the air-quality management board offering $650 to turn in my 1985 car which still passes the smog checks with flying colors) I'm really surprised that they don't do the obvious: adjust the gasoline tax as needed to pay for highway repair.

    In fact, given the popularity of huge gas guzzling SUVs I find the assertion that revenues are being harmed by a few hybrids absurd to say nothing of the fact that all the money needed to install, maintain and track the devices could, instead, go toward maintaining the road.

    If more revenue is needed and gas taxes have to be raised so be it. I am not going to feel sorry for the few people who have to give up their Ford Extinctions or GMC Expletives.
  • by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:39PM (#11682130) Homepage
    Is this a chance to give Silicon Valley a boost by providing Hardware/software for this?

    IMHO this would be a more practical approach:

    - Put all cars into classes, based on milage per gallon, and the emissions. 1-10.

    - Add tax to gas based on car as a percentile Hence if your car is an 8 (heavy emissions), it would be 8%.

    For commecial vehicles, you can subtract 3. Simply because buses are good (keep people from driving themselves), and big trucks carry more with less emissions than several smaller ones. Also would put less of a burdon on commerce.

    what does this solve?
    1. No need for GPS
    2. Puts emphasis on both cars that get better milage AND reducing milage.
    3. Doesn't burdon a particular party.

    That would be cheaper, and more inclusive.

    IMHO this plan is an attempt to regenerate some electronic industries within the state, rather than serve a monetary, or ecologicial purpose.
  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:58PM (#11682410) Homepage
    The Great State of California may be surprised to learn that all cars on the roads today already have the ability to report how many miles the vehicle has traveled. This amazing device is usually located either directly below, or in close proximity to the speedometer, and is often referred to as an odometer, or sometimes as a vehicle devaluator.

    If they're really just interested in taxing by the mile, check the milage each year as part of the safety/smog inspection and charge accordingly.

    Not to mention the inaccuracy or GPS.. If a car suddenly appears to jump 70 miles due to interference, will the driver be charged for that? And I guess it's free miles when solar flares drown out the GPS signals? Come to think of it, I like the idea of GPS much better than an odometer.. "I'm not sure who keeps stealing my antenna, officer. Damn kids."
  • Robbery (Score:4, Funny)

    by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:58PM (#11682415)
    Why not just let police pull people over randomly, club them half to death, and take any money that happens to be in their wallet for the state coffers?

  • by raider_red ( 156642 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @06:01PM (#11682455) Journal
    I thought the point of the high gas tax was to encourage people to drive more efficient cars. So now that it's worked, the government's decided that it worked too well?

    This reminds me of the New Jersey cigarette tax. They jacked up the price per pack to such a high point that most of the smokers quit. The result: the state had a budget shortfall because they didn't make as much as they estimated off of the tax increase--and actually took in less than the previous year.
  • by 0-9a-f ( 445046 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @06:15PM (#11682648) Homepage
    Such a tax would do nothing to discourage ownership of large vehicles, since paying $5 mileage tax on top of $50 fuel is almost nothing (10%). For a small car, it might well be $20 tax on top of $20 fuel (100%)!

    Wouldn't it be simpler/fairer to raise the tax on each gallon of fuel, and really hit the SUV owner where it hurts. Or is it un-American to tax fuel?

    The tax here (outside US) is something like 50% of the final price of fuel, with tax concessions for primary producers, etc.

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors