New Device Would Track Drivers So That They Could Be Charged


UPDATED: Thursday October 4, 2012 6:35 PM

In the next 10  years, it could cost you more when you climb into the driver's seat of your own car.

As gas prices rise, more Americans have parked their cars.

A study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group finds U.S. residents have driven a billion fewer miles between April 2011 and April 2012.

That means that Americans are using less gas and that's a problem for state departments of transportation around the country because the tax on gasoline pays for road and bridge repairs. 

States are looking for new ways to fund roadwork.

Battelle Memorial Institute has one solution, thanks to a machine that looks like video game.  When the driver sits down in front of a steering wheel, he inserts a device that's like a fancy odometer. 

"It's unobtrusive. It goes in your car, goes in the on-board diagnostic port. All cars are required to have that," said Ben Pierce, director of transportation operations for Battelle Memorial Institute.

The small device tracks the miles you drive and on what kind of roads. That means whether it's the freeway or a side street.  

Pierce said where and when we drive may be the way we'll be taxed in the future.

For instance, if you drive the freeway during rush hour, you'll pay more. If you drive a side street mid-day, you'll pay less.

"It's a true pay per use," said Pierce. "This has the ability to change your rates on all kinds of things (like) time of day, day of week, type of road, type of car."

Battelle tested the device in Minnesota and found that drivers' habits changed when they saw charges accumulate on a smart phone with a fee that later could be billed to the driver.

Experts said there's a chance for savings as well. Pierce said that same little ‘tattletale’ device also tracks how you drive.  It can tell if you are weaving and measure your acceleration.

"Over time, there's a pattern that will emerge for each and every one of us. We all have our own unique driving style.  And it's that pattern that this will look for," Pierce said. 

He added that information could affect insurance rates so good drivers could bargain with insurers to pay less.

"This is my evidence of my good driving, my driver score. What kind of insurance rate could I get?" he explained.

Pierce said these changes won't happen overnight.

More studies will be done first, but he expects electronics will play a role in our road tax bill in the next 10 years.

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