Fuel efficient vehicles and politicians terrified to raise the gas tax and alienate voters have prompted the United States government to consider alternative methods of calculating how much drivers should pay in taxes. One such suggestion involves a little black box equipped with a GPS that would monitor the miles everyone drives, allowing the government to generate a tax bill specific to your driving habits.
The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America's major roads.
The usually dull arena of highway planning has suddenly spawned intense debate and colorful alliances. Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.
The ACLU and the Tea Party are none to happy about the idea, citing concerns about the privacy of American citizens. Though, that hasn't stopped many states from exploring the possibility of taxing drivers per mile.
Several states and cities are nonetheless moving ahead on their own. The most eager is Oregon, which is enlisting 5,000 drivers in the country's biggest experiment. Those drivers will soon pay the mileage fees instead of gas taxes to the state. Nevada has already completed a pilot. New York City is looking into one. Illinois is trying it on a limited basis with trucks. And the I-95 Coalition, which includes 17 state transportation departments along the Eastern Seaboard (including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida), is studying how they could go about implementing the change.
And, while some states are concerned that the boxes will be able to do too much *insert "that's how they track you" joke here*, some transportation officials in New York City are trying to bill the devices as cure-alls for people who spend a lot of time in the car, suggesting that the boxes could allow you to pay for parking meters and have pay-as-you-drive insurance benefits. [L.A. Times]