Something different – while we all are distracted elsewhere . . .

ITS America Member Hosts Luncheon on Road Pricing

On Wednesday, September 24, 2008, Bern Grush of SkyMeter addressed a panel of ITS America members and special guests to introduce a pricing technology that his company hopes to introduce in the coming years. SkyMeter utilizes GPS signals to determine where a vehicle has driven and when. When partnered with another company or government, this information can be used for congestion pricing, parking pricing, insurance pricing and general highway travel pricing under a pay-as-you-go system. With breakthroughs in new technology and innovative uses of existing technologies, SkyMeter will allow governments to accurately charge consumers for services they use, while protecting personal privacy. It will also allow governments to collect transportation revenues without prohibitive administration costs.

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So, is this something YOU want for our future? Big Brother tracking your every move to better TAX you – and who knows what else Government and the private sector businesses (toll collectors, insurance companies, etc.) will do with the information they collect regarding our movements?

Please share your thoughts here:

<a href=”http://whereistand.com/ReidGreenmun?ref=dec1a2116514fafa616dcad44ba8da80″><img src=”http://whereistand.com/images/i_guy.gif” alt=”Reid Greenmun – whereIstand.com” /></a>

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14 Responses to Something different – while we all are distracted elsewhere . . .

  1. reidgreenmun says:

    Pay as you go is a Libertarian principle, but protecting our privacy is also important to Libertarians. We seek less government, not more. Placing traditional tolls on roads is a fair way to pay for the roads that we use while not creating massive databases that track our every move. Yet, use of new technology reduces the cost to collect the toll. This is a hard issue to decide based on Libertarian core values. The other question is – Should roads be paid for out of general taxes and free for everyone to use, or only “pay as you go”?

  2. Don Tabor says:

    OK, if this comes to pass, I’m going to hire a geek to help me come up with a product for evading this technology and make a fortune.

    Once something like this exists, it for absolutely certain WILL be misused. Not just by big brother, but by divorce lawyers, advertisers, and stalkers.

  3. Reid Greenmun says:

    The technology already exists – what hasn’t yet happened is for a way for the government to sanction this without public objection. Using “transportation” as an excuse is a cleaver way to overcome public outcry and justify the invation of our privacy by some “public purpose”.

  4. Rich Roberts says:

    I’m working on a way to shield my brain from the thought police.

    I’ll trade you my technology for yours when it is operational.

  5. Reid Greenmun says:

    Deal – but you can’t cheat my simply adorning your old tin foil hat – it has to be high tech and have the letter “i” in front of its name, LOL! You know, The “i-Shield”, or the “i-can’tBtracked” – something like that . . .

  6. Rich Roberts says:

    I considered tin foil for its high reflectivity.

    But I will need something thicker to fully attenuate their brain probes.

    I’m thinking of wearing my stockpot. I’ll get Emeril Lagasse to endorse me!

  7. Bern Grush says:

    Article says “protecting personal privacy”. But 5 of 6 comments assume you will be tracked. This clearly shows the failure of the American Elementary School System. As a fellow Libertarian and complete privacy freak, I am acutely embarrassed. In fact the technology works on an anonymous cell phone technology and is not trackable. Unless Don hires his geek to break it. If you who want to know more, our position on Privacy is here.
    http://www.skymetercorp.com/cms/images/News/dataprotectionact.pdf
    Bern Grush

  8. Rich Roberts says:

    You are right, the government would never abuse something like this

    just like they would never abuse the Patriot Act, when they were listening in on private conversations between military officers stationed in Middle East and their families, that was all in the name of national security. You are safer because of them knowing my feelings towards my girlfriend.

    We don’t need any protections from surveilance and government tracking. They always do the right thing.

  9. Reid Greenmun says:

    Bern, do you work for SkyMeter?

  10. Bern Grush says:

    Reid: I am the founder and principal inventor for Skymeter. I did this because I promised in 2002 to end traffic congestion and there is only way to do that – replace the fuel tax with TDP pricing (see http://www.slideshare.net/Skymeter/a-roadmap-for-road-user-charging-presentation or http://www.slideshare.net/Skymeter/financial-grade-gps-presentation). Your Secretary of Transportation has seen the technology and agrees with me. Indeed there is not choice. The changes are already starting. However, I am also very concerned about privacy. In fact only anonymity is satisfactory for me, as Rich Roberts concerns (above) are real and founded, even if (currently) less likely than he fears. So how to end congestion and still protect Rich’s absolute right to privacy? That is what I do. All of my inventions attack the four greatest barriers to replacing the gas tax with TDP charging Reliability, Affordability and Privacy and Political Cowardice (http://grushhour.blogspot.com/2008/09/instead-of-courage.html)
    Bern

  11. Bern Grush says:

    BTW, Reid, your first comment above asked the right questions. E-Zpass and SunPass, while available in anonymous formats, are not typically acquired that way. Skymeter-Anonymous (there are many versions) is more private than “traditional tolling”. Roads should not be paid for out of general taxes (and the gas tax now pays less than half the freight). Paying roads out the general purse is the cause of overuse of the automobile. Imagine if your food and electricity were paid out of the general purse.

    As recently as 2 years ago, I maintained that the US would not make the change to Pay-as-you-go until 2018-2023. Parts of Asia will be there in 4 years, EU in 6. I now believe you will see an operational system in one of the US megaregions by 2011. It will be a desired consumer product NOT a government mandated tolling device which will not be accepted by Americans (including me!) It will provide park-and-walkaway, discounts, loyalty programs, driver rewards (parking credits for not driving at peak hours) insurance discounts and the ability to sell you data (fully anonymized yes even your endpoints are indecipherable). and it will replace your current tolling transponder (which is NOT anonymous!) And in a few years after that it will be able to replace the gas tax. (you know your all electric car will not use gas in 2017, right?) Think about how to get the gas tax then?

  12. Reid Greenmun says:

    Bern,

    Thanks for your candid responses.

    The problems I foresee with this notion of tracking every mile each vehicle travels and charging based on this is that, just like the tax code, far too many “exceptions” will be written into the law to “promote economic development”, or to “benefit low income” groups, and the result will be a free ride for those with the best lobbyists.

    General gas taxes, although declining due to increased efficiencies tend to capture more road taxes from a wider amount of users. Of course ISTEA and TEA-21 began the whole “social justice” B.S. and diverted highways funds to special interest boondoggles (bike paths, ineffective light rail with TOD, and a whole host of non-capacity “investments”.

    On the matters of privacy, we all know how the government abuses our privacy with the cooperation of the banking industries, the health care industry is next up, and our cell phone data is widely exploited – as is our privacy while we interact with the internet.

    Ultimately we ca no longer trust anyone that is empowered by law to track our movements, conversations, or money.

    Toll booths don’t gather databases of information that can be exploited.

    Yet, they are inefficient, costly, and impede traffic flow.

    It all comes down to TRUST – and we have little reason to TRUST anything our government is involved in that gathers private information on “We, The People”.

    This is not to say that I oppose what your firm is attempting to do – rather we need strong CRIMINAL LAWS to put those that abuse our privacy IN JAIL.

    Instead we tend to leave these to the CIVIL courts – and have an undue burden of proving “damages”. IMHO violating our privacy needs to be criminal – with HEAVY penalties.

    I understand a great deal about ITS and ATMS solutions. I have been a member of APTA for a long time. There are a host of solutions beyond the solution you as advocating. This is not to say I do not support your solution, just that I know that it is far from the only solution.

  13. Rich Roberts says:

    Right. I wouldn’t mind the system if I could trust the ones who run it. The track record is not good. And we ahve seen, as soon as the government inherents a new power, the government never gives it up.

  14. Bern,

    So, three points.

    (1) In your remarks you commented that some posters herein were experiencing inadequate reading comprehension in regard to your claims of “protecting privacy”. Not the case at all. The case is that we no longer TRUST promises that the data gathered will not be abused. This is not to say that we doubt your sincerity, but rather we have learned that government and many corporations can no longer be trusted to make the right decisions when it comes to honoring their promises to protect our privacy.

    (2) As to the concept of shifting to greater use of “pay as you go highways”; the Federal and State governments gather wealth from Americans and redistribute it by a confusing cornucopia of ever expanding and over lapping government bureaucracies, often by means of non-elected authorities or other unaccountable (to the voters) entities (all appointed MPOs for example). Myself and many other Libertarians reject this false construct. Our highways and roadways are a priority that should be addressed out of the government’s General Funds and not some artificial “Special Fund” and corresponding special (additional) taxes and fees. What I have observed is a state government process whereby transportation funds are always fair game to rob (deceivingly called “borrowing”) and then the funds are claimed to be “paid back” by use of I.O.U.s known as FRANS. This is done under the guise of attempting to ‘balance’ a state budget but for some reason it rarely works the other way around – that being that General Fund “accounts” are rarely used to deal with transportation needs. The point being that before we agree that your system of new ‘per mile’ taxes being collected is the only solution moving forward as a way for paying for new road capacity there are other options to be explored. We, The People are already more than adequately taxed. What can be done to better fund our transportation infrastructure is to reprioritize our government spending and increase spending on transportation infrastructure that reduces traffic congestion and adds new capacity to accommodate growth. Of course this solution requires lowering government spending on less critical “investments”. Thus, someone’s ax will be gored and politicians operate in fear of alienating certain constituencies they pander by means of their spending habits.

    (3) The trend appears to be a shift to greater use of Public-Private Partnerships, selling off taxpayer assets to private firms and placing Americans at the mercy of corporations that can raise tolls and fees and the result may be a loss of our freedom of mobility, not an increase over the freedom we now have. Thus, the tolls collected will include the profits corporations need to earn in order to remain in business. Thus, We, The People end up paying more for our transportation system then we should if we retain ownership of our public roadways, bridges, tunnels, and highways. Not to mention the transfer of control to foreign owned corporations that may not have the best interest of the American people as a criterion for their decision-making processes.

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