Sunday, November 3, 2013

More on "Black Boxes"

Nearly a year ago I blogged about the upcoming rules for “event data recorders” in automobiles and some of the rousing comments that I had seen. Just last week it was the LA Times's turn to go beating the beehive with a broomstick and with an eerily similar title. The comments that they received (some are given below) are wildly amusing.

Cash-strapped communities and states are looking for new ways of generating revenue to repair and expand the crumbling highway system without appearing to raise taxes. The income from our present federal gas tax structure, set at 18.4 cents per gallon over 20 year ago, will not keep pace with the rate of decay seen in our roads and bridges. Kentucky's gas tax rate is tied to the rate of inflation but even that is falling behind. These states are now looking at a vehicle-miles-traveled or VMT structure to REPLACE the gas tax.

The reaction of the Tea Party is predictable and the American Civil Liberties Union is nearly beside itself raising a variety of privacy issues. Mostly, the complaints are concerning the ability of a government to monitor and track any individual's movements on a 24-7-365 basis. Are they not the same high-tech customers who will wait in line for hours to get the latest smart phone for the wi-fi connectivity and connectedness which lies at the root of this monitoring technology?

In fact, they are the savvy consumer who has found an automobile which get amazing gas mileage and comes equipped with the OnStar or Sync service as an anti-theft device. They are the drivers who utilize the Sirius radio and Pandora streaming music service, linked with Bluetooth. Are they even aware that those packages are what Google employs to determine real-time traffic counts? State DOT”s are not that well connected.

Like many other subjects, Congress cannot agree on whether to proceed in this direction. The Senate had approved a trial project but he House leadership killed it (anybody surprised?) despite two former U.S. Transportation secretaries urging for it. But, without federal guidance it is left to the states to move forward and some are doing so. Oregon, Nevada, Illinois and the states which are members of the I-95 Coalition along the Eastern Seaboard together with New York City are studying how the change may be made.

Are you like one of those residents from Oregon who will opt instead to pay a flat fee based on the average number of miles driven by all state residents rather that a recording device. Not quite fair to the urban dweller who seldom drives but has to pay near what the suburbanite or rural farmer drives.

Maybe you are an app happy Gen Xer who is looking for a device to ease all of your driving woes. Not just keeping track of your miles driven, but in which part of your metro area you traveled. It also finds the closest, cheapest parking meter, pays for it and may have “reserve” it until you can get through the last traffic light. That may save you the price of a gallon of gas.

The problem (or solution) is that this is very doable with current technology, and could be put in place very quietly. If they need money to fix the roads then raise the gas tax. It isn't that I don't want Big Brother knowing where I go (even if I don't). It's that where I go is none of his damn business.
Such tools do not belong in a free state.” Ronald Baker

This sounds like a very American thing to say, that we do not want any semblance of Big Brother unless it is on network TV. The facts are that such tools have been developed and used by the corporate world for a much more sinister use than government surveillance. The monetary cost of business surveillance far exceeds the individual's supposed additional tax burden.

Currently, a Prius driver pays less in gas taxes than a Hummer driver over the same mileage. This is exceptionally fair because a lighter Prius does less damage to the road and pollutes less.
Changing to a miles-driven tax system makes so little sense that the tea party and the ACLU are united in opposition. It would raise taxes, cost a lot to develop and create a government database of information about our driving habits.
What is there to like about this?” Terrence R. Dunn

Yes, the Prius driver does pay less and a Tesla driver pays nothing but they both need the roads and bridges to be there regardless of damage or pollution. Mr. Dunn, the system already exists and does not need to be developed.

Corporations to which you already pay tribute have a current database of your driving habits. They already know when you stop at the coffee drive thru on the way to work or the bar on the way home. They are profiting from such information and you are willingly giving it to them.

What the governments would like to know is if you are driving in their jurisdiction or somewhere else. If you live (and buy gas) in Northern Ky. and do 85% of your driving in Cincinnati, then the state of Ohio is unable to anticipate your road usage, or vice versa.

Ah, so very nice for the entrepreneurs to do the work of the government for it. I have absolutely no desire to have my whereabouts and comings and goings tracked.
If Ryan Morrison, chief executive of the California start-up developing a vehicle black box had thought this through, he would have seen the error in his approach. Trusting the government not to overreach and spy is naive.
Instead of thinking of the money they could be making, CEOs like Morrison should consider the large-scale impacts they could have on their fellow Americans.”
Chris Sarvis
Does anyone see a pattern here? It is always the government that is doing the overreaching or spying. Is there no one who believes that the corporations are not reaching for more than they may be entitled? At a time when the 1 (or 2)% are looking for more money from you packet, so many of the naïve are willing to believe that it is the government which may be in the wrong.

The time is approaching when the Departments of Transportation in many states (some very near Kentucky) will begin to allow some lesser traveled roads to revert to gravel or dirt roads. The funding will not be available to continue maintenance duties in addition to the responsibilities toward our primary traffic routes. Our city's struggles on paving issues grow larger each passing year, so we will all have to find a workable solution.

Is your expectation of privacy in regard to mobility, that which you seem to willingly give to corporations, greater than your expectations for receiving adequate transportation facilities? The answer here may shock many people.

1 comment:

Ahavah said...

A mileage tax is inevitable, but the long term effect will simply be to drive - no pun intended - more people out of the private automobile market faster. Many neighborhoods in Lexington are already to the point where few can afford the costs of a car: payments, gas, insurance, and taxes. As these coats climb more and more households that consider themselves middle class will find they just cannot afford a car anymore. Mc-wally-woet jobs simply do not pay enough, even if you have two or three of them, for a middle class lifestyle. Poverty in increasing in the 'burbs for just this reason - ironically where public transit is least accessible. So a mileage tax will only postpone the inevitable. Many roads will have to go back to gravel or dirt anyway. The post-living-wage economy cannot generate enough tax revenue to support a living wage infrastructure base. That is not going to change.