Could a pay-per-use road charging scheme powered by vehicle data reporting be viable?

NotATrainspott

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Moderator note: Split from https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/government-increase-use-of-public-transport.202690/

An advantage of a pay-per-use road charging scheme powered by vehicle data reporting is that it can also cover parking, including in otherwise unrestricted areas. The positioning systems in cars are getting more precise than standard civilian GPS in order to power self-driving features, so it won't be impossible to tell the difference between a pavement and a driveway. Charging this way means you can effectively blanket the road network with charging prices with smooth gradients, rather than hard thresholds. If you have one half of the street charge £1 for parking and the other half charge £2 it's quite natural for people to prefer to park in the £1 zone. The only way to remove cliff edge problems like these is to put computers in charge of the collection. The same goes for roads.

Since traffic patterns don't tend to change that dramatically (unless you're in a pandemic!) it should be possible to make these charges transparent and available ahead of doing the journey. What we want, in effect, is for Google Maps or equivalent to be able to put a £ cost of driving a car journey alongside the journey time, just as it does for taxi and public transport services. Once you've got that transparency people will make better decisions and take more efficient modes instead. Ideally this is just walking or cycling.

The great thing about imposing charges like these is that they encourage people at the margin to change their behaviour, leaving the roads clearer for those who have no real choice but to drive.
 
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Meerkat

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An advantage of a pay-per-use road charging scheme powered by vehicle data reporting is that it can also cover parking, including in otherwise unrestricted areas. The positioning systems in cars are getting more precise than standard civilian GPS in order to power self-driving features, so it won't be impossible to tell the difference between a pavement and a driveway.
Your scheme is Orwellian, something the Chinese government would be proud of!
The amount of data it would generate would be unprecedented and constitute one of the biggest ever IT, data management and billing operations.
The chances of it working are small, and the protests fiendish - can you imagine how big an itemised bill would be?!
 

NotATrainspott

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Your scheme is Orwellian, something the Chinese government would be proud of!
The amount of data it would generate would be unprecedented and constitute one of the biggest ever IT, data management and billing operations.
The chances of it working are small, and the protests fiendish - can you imagine how big an itemised bill would be?!
Yes. It's going to happen, whether people like it or not. Most of the component parts are already here, and used by the largest technology companies (most notably Google) to power their own mapping services. While this may be a big project from the perspective of government procurement, it's actually the sort of thing that could be bashed together with some cloud computing tech by a relatively small number of competent software engineers.

According to https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/road-traffic-statistics-tra there were 528 billion vehicle kilometres driven in 2018 across all road vehicle types. Using two 32-bit floating point numbers for latitude/longitude and a 64-bit long to represent vehicle ID, taken one sample per metre driven, that's 528,000,000,000 * 1000 * ((32+32+64)/8) = 8,448,000,000,000,000 bytes or 8PB of raw data per year. That may sound like a lot, but the monthly storage bill for 8PB of data in AWS's London region is only $200k. That's a pittance in terms of any large enterprise. Sure, once you flesh out the system you'd end up with more costs, but you could easily survive multiple orders of magnitude cost increases beyond that without it even making a dent in the government's IT costs. We're talking about a tax that would raise many tens of billions of pounds. The adminstration cost would be a tiny fraction of the raised amount, making it one of the most cost-effective taxes around.

The idea that you can have an expectation of privacy when driving a 2 ton machine around falls apart when you consider all the ways society needs to manage what you're doing. We already have ANPR systems which can track you.
 

Meerkat

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Yes. It's going to happen, whether people like it or not. Most of the component parts are already here, and used by the largest technology companies (most notably Google) to power their own mapping services. While this
The component parts for a fascist dictatorship exist. Doesn’t mean we have to accept they should be put together.
You can avoid Google putting together your location data and your name, at the extreme you could travel without a phone - apparently it’s possible!

While this may be a big project from the perspective of government procurement, it's actually the sort of thing that could be bashed together with some cloud computing tech by a relatively small number of competent software engineers.
That’s probably what they said about the NHS computer system, the HMRC computer systems, that German toad toll, and almost every other major IT programme

Using two 32-bit floating point numbers for latitude/longitude and a 64-bit long to represent vehicle ID, taken one sample per metre
Surely you would need to sample every car every few seconds to make sure it hadn’t moved. The data then needs associating with a moving price, and then added to an account.
Then you need a payments system, the administration of people switching cars (got to do it at exactly the right moment, not just the right day), the complaints process (I never went there!, I wasn’t told it was that expensive!) and deal with all the system failures and GPS drop outs.

The idea that you can have an expectation of privacy when driving a 2 ton machine around falls apart when you consider all the ways society needs to manage what you're doing. We already have ANPR systems which can track you.
Society does not need to manage where an individual is at all times.
The ANPR system is a disgrace ( a huge contravention of privacy sneaked in without any real debate, and has anyone got any idea what access/usage controls it has? ) - but that has very minimal coverage and can’t locate you or say whose house you visited last Thursday at 7pm.
 

Taunton

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Society does not need to manage where an individual is at all times.
Indeed not. However, there are a proportion of society who seem to wish for this form of Control-Freakism, or even to enjoy it. Particularly if done to some group other than their own, whether it is those more wealthy, from a different cultural background, etc. Quite notable even in the thread above, where railway-oriented contributors seem to relish putting controls and costs on those not using their own favoured mode of transport.

This is all regardless of this being less than convenient, or even impractical, to use this compared to what the individual may decide for themselves. A style of authoritarianism which brings us back to the opening point here.
 

NotATrainspott

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The component parts for a fascist dictatorship exist. Doesn’t mean we have to accept they should be put together.
You can avoid Google putting together your location data and your name, at the extreme you could travel without a phone - apparently it’s possible!
There is no viable alternative, unless you think it's a good idea for us to give up on taxing vehicle use completely. The previous muddled approach using a tax on fuel does not work in a world where you can charge your car using your own solar panels. Even taxing charging stations wouldn't work - all electric cars are capable of being charged with a 3-pin socket (albeit very slowly). If you clamp down on charging stations, it'll just create a market for people to provide higher-powered and non-government-controlled charging solutions at home. That is, unless you impose the restrictions on the vehicle, at which point you require the sorts of backup check mechanisms which erode any privacy benefit this system would have.

That’s probably what they said about the NHS computer system, the HMRC computer systems, that German toad toll, and almost every other major IT programme
The reason that IT projects fail is that their product requirements are too complex, or change continuously. Any computer system to manage the taxation system must absorb all of the complexity involved in that taxation system, which is normally rife with exceptions and overrides and manual interventions by civil servants. A system to track the movements of every vehicle in the country would be a very simple product. You're creating a store of facts - this vehicle ID was at this place at this time, then at this place some time later. Getting those facts right is normally the hard bit, but not in this case.

Surely you would need to sample every car every few seconds to make sure it hadn’t moved. The data then needs associating with a moving price, and then added to an account.
Then you need a payments system, the administration of people switching cars (got to do it at exactly the right moment, not just the right day), the complaints process (I never went there!, I wasn’t told it was that expensive!) and deal with all the system failures and GPS drop outs.
This is not a complicated process. Cars would self-report their location whenever the vehicle is moved. The only way for a vehicle to move around without it being aware is either if it is pushed or pulled by a human or other animal, or if it is moved around by another vehicle (which would itself be tracked). If your car is on a tow truck, the only vehicle being billed for the road use is the tow truck - just as people aren't liable for speeding tickets or traffic offenses if their car is being towed and their number plate is recorded by the system.

What complaints process? The vehicle records its position, including the possible error (GPS receivers know the precision of the location data they report). The likelihood of the true vehicle behaviour being impossible to recover from the position trace is minimal. The onboard tracking systems can use dead reckoning (they already do anyway) to fill in more details (e.g. they'll know if you made the sharp turns into a parallel side street). It's the vehicle owner's responsibility to know or authorise the use of their vehicle at any time. No one should be surprised by a vehicle trace saying they went somewhere else. I expect there will also be ANPR systems to provide an independent audit of the vehicle tracking data, in case vehicles begin reporting incorrectly.

The DVLA already has the details of all vehicle owners in the UK. Sending them a bill every month would not be a challenge. Once you have the store of facts of vehicle movements, the system to generate 40 million bills a month is no more complex or onerous than those used by telecoms companies to charge their subscribers.

We already have a bureaucratic process for people to change ownership of their vehicle. This system is made to work by the natural incentive of the seller to rid themselves of legal responsibility for the vehicle as soon as it is no longer in their possession. This would continue to hold with this tax system.

The tax would be levied on the current owner of the vehicle. If the owner authorises someone to drive the vehicle (whether that be letting your child drive your car when they're home from uni, or you're running a rental or courtesy fleet) then it's the owner's responsibility to apportion any costs to the driver of the vehicle at that time. Rental companies will send you a bill plus fees for any speeding tickets or tolls incurred during your rental contract.

Society does not need to manage where an individual is at all times.
The ANPR system is a disgrace ( a huge contravention of privacy sneaked in without any real debate, and has anyone got any idea what access/usage controls it has? ) - but that has very minimal coverage and can’t locate you or say whose house you visited last Thursday at 7pm.
Society needs to know who is using a 2 ton machine on the public highway. That is why we have driving licenses and number plates. The libertarian approach falls down when you appreciate the ways that individual vehicle owners are capable of having a destructive impact on the rest of society.
 

Meerkat

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There is no viable alternative
The far more viable alternatives are raising vehicle duty or just having a mileage charge

A system to track the movements of every vehicle in the country would be a very simple product
It really wouldn’t be! It’s a huge volume of data with many moving parts. You need a secure accurate GPS unit (with a tested fitting scheme for every model of car), a secure communication system with the required bandwidth, an up to date road map, an up to date charging matrix (got to cope with road closures and diversions....), a change mechanism for the road map, the charging matrix algorithm, a real-time link to the ownership database, a payments system (including access for those with no internet and who want to pay in cash), a complaints system, a fraud prevention system.

I expect there will also be ANPR systems to provide an independent audit of the vehicle tracking data
you said it was simple, but now you are linking it to a massive new ANPR system?

The DVLA already has the details of all vehicle owners in the UK. Sending them a bill every month would not be a challenge. Once you have the store of facts of vehicle movements, the system to generate 40 million bills a month is no more complex or onerous than those used by telecoms companies to charge their subscribers.
Billing, collecting, and chasing 40m car owners would be a huge operation

We already have a bureaucratic process for people to change ownership of their vehicle.
One that currently isn’t really time sensitive unless the new owner triggers a speed camera

Society needs to know who is using a 2 ton machine on the public highway. That is why we have driving licenses and number plates. The libertarian approach falls down when you appreciate the ways that individual vehicle owners are capable of having a destructive impact on the rest of society.
Society already knows who owns cars. It doesn’t need to know where everyone is and has been.

Would you support CCTV inside all homes? Would massively reduce the damage on society from domestic and child abuse and if you haven’t got anything to hide then what’s the problem?
 

DynamicSpirit

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Would you support CCTV inside all homes? Would massively reduce the damage on society from domestic and child abuse and if you haven’t got anything to hide then what’s the problem?
I don't think that's a legitimate comparison. @NotATrainspott is talking about monitoring where a vehicle is - there's no CCTV involved, so no personal images. And roads are generally public spaces, not private places. The two things are very different.

Clearly, there's a balance to be had between people's need for privacy and the need for monitoring of some activities both to prevent/detect crime and in some cases to charge appropriately for use of resources - which is what road charging would fall into, and there's always going to be a judgement call about where that balance should lie. Personally I'd be pretty comfortable with monitoring where cars are - because that doesn't seem to me that huge a privacy invasion. It's probably on a par with - say - that your phone company, and Google (if you have an Android phone) and the makers of various apps can almost continuously tell where your phone is - which already happens and doesn't seem to cause a huge amount of harm to anyone. And the advantages of tracking locations of cars to all of us are huge - both in terms of enabling a pricing regime that gives more efficient use of roads and therefore a better quality of life for an awful lot of people - and in terms of crime prevention - it could make it almost impossible for people to commit any crimes that involve using vehicles.
 

Meerkat

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Personally I'd be pretty comfortable with monitoring where cars are - because that doesn't seem to me that huge a privacy invasion. It's probably on a par with - say - that your phone company, and Google (if you have an Android phone) and the makers of various apps can almost continuously tell where your phone is
You don’t really need a mobile, you can turn tracking off, you can switch the phone off

And the advantages of tracking locations of cars to all of us are huge - both in terms of enabling a pricing regime that gives more efficient use of roads
I am not even convinced by this pro - can you define “more efficient use of roads”?

and in terms of crime prevention - it could make it almost impossible for people to commit any crimes that involve using vehicles.
So you are planning on giving Big Brother access to your car location at all times? The criminals will quickly find ways around it - wouldn’t you just need a wire mesh faraday cage around the unit?
 

NotATrainspott

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The far more viable alternatives are raising vehicle duty or just having a mileage charge
No they aren't.

VED, as a static charge, does not take into account the amount of usage. The same model of car will cost you the same in VED every year whether you do 10 miles or 10,000 miles a year. That's semi-acceptable today because we make up the difference with the fuel use. If you only do 10 miles a year you'll use very little fuel, and pay very little tax as a result. If you drive 10,000 miles a year you'll use a lot more fuel, and pay more tax.

The lack of a centralised vehicle energy source means you can't set up stable proxies for mileage charging. It's basically impossible for someone to bypass the current proxy mileage charge of fuel consumption, unless they're using red diesel, because the tax can be collected through the relatively centralised petrol and diesel distribution networks. Even if a local petrol station is willing to bend the rules for some local customers and not charge them the tax, they'd find it rather difficult when their fuel sale figures don't line up with their deliveries!

Relying on drivers to report their mileage gets you into a whole world of trouble. As soon as you create that tax system, you create an entire universe of people doing whatever they can to create fake mileage meters. The bigger the tax, the greater the incentive to do the work. While this is conceptually true for a GPS-based system as well, the fact that a pure mileage-based system is only an aggregate number makes a backup audit more difficult. Under a tracker system, all you need is a random sample ANPR to verify that whatever vehicles encountered did report that they were there at that time. If the ANPR checks roam around the country without warning, then the likelihood of you being able to avoid that GPS positioning audit would be fairly small. An ANPR system cannot tell though that you did more miles per month than you're claiming on the tax form. The only way to do that would be to cover the country in enough ANPR checks that we can start to disaggregate the mileage and locations, and then you end up going back to the world of GPS tracking anyway.

It really wouldn’t be! It’s a huge volume of data with many moving parts. You need a secure accurate GPS unit (with a tested fitting scheme for every model of car),
Every EV has a satnav and internet connectivity. If mandated, car manufacturers will fit the system. With a random ANPR backup audit, any schemes to break the reporting system would be quickly identified.

a secure communication system with the required bandwidth,
Every EV has or will have 4G and 5G connectivity. The network security on top of this is no more challenging than what this very website uses to give you the green padlock. 16KB per kilometre driven is so small the network wouldn't even notice, even across 40 million users. Assuming you're driving at 60km/h, that's a kilometre a minute, or 13m/s. That would be just 208 bytes/s - able to be handled by a dial-up modem from 30 years ago. 4G and 5G has per-client bandwidth six orders of magnitude greater.

an up to date road map,
For all those times the public highways change route dramatically without the state ever being aware. Anyway, Google learns that it has old mapping data because lots of people who it believes to be driving (based on GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope data from Android phones) start moving around in places they don't have a road recorded.

an up to date charging matrix (got to cope with road closures and diversions....),
The charging matrix would not change dramatically in short periods of time. Joining positioning data against a road cost table is not technologically complicated. It's a SQL join you could do in one line.

a change mechanism for the road map,
There are already processes that entities have to go through to change the road layout. These designs are all computerised anyway. Road departments would just submit them automatically if they made enough of a difference to the network to materially affect the tax system. That only really happens when roads are stopped off.

the charging matrix algorithm,
Busier roads in more populated areas cost you more money. The charging system could be up for experimentation.

a real-time link to the ownership database,
Why? You're just building a table of positioning facts. You only need to worry about ownership once you start generating the bills. The police already have live lookup systems for the DVLA databases in their police cars.

a payments system (including access for those with no internet and who want to pay in cash),
I believe we already have a system of charging people for using their cars. It seems to work fine. You take direct debits from people, like a utility. The few people who are going to want to pay their EV usage tax with cash would do so at PayPoint stations like they can for other utility bills.

a complaints system,
What is there to complain about? That you weren't on a road when your car said you were? The likelihood of this, given the sheer amount of data and the way that even rough positioning data can be resolved into an accurate position using statistics and dead reckoning techniques mean there's really not a lot for people to complain about. Complaints happen when humans get the facts wrong - this system would be pretty bang on in terms of always getting the facts right.

a fraud prevention system.
What fraud? You own the car, you are responsible for it. If the car gets stolen, then you already need to report that to the police. Hell, I don't know why you'd want to start stealing cars affected by this system if you know every car is fitted with a tracker!

you said it was simple, but now you are linking it to a massive new ANPR system?
As I said above, it doesn't need to be massive. All you need to do is make it not worthwhile attempting to make your vehicle mis-report its location data. That aim would be more easily achieved by random mobile spot-checks. The threat that there could be an ANPR camera anywhere from Zone 1 up to the Western Isles means no one is going to take the chance. There doesn't actually need to be a live ANPR camera everywhere at all times.

Billing, collecting, and chasing 40m car owners would be a huge operation
If you don't pay your car tax, then the police are going to come and find you with their existing ANPR system.

One that currently isn’t really time sensitive unless the new owner triggers a speed camera
The bills would be generated after the fact, just like utility bills. So long as you report the day and time of ownership transfer to the DVLA, they can have a record of when to cut over the billing period. Even if you're posting in a V5C the bill can be generated after enough days for any such ownership transfers to get through the system ahead of billing. Even then, the actual charge you could rack up in a day's driving is only a matter of a few pounds, so it's not going to break the bank.

Society already knows who owns cars. It doesn’t need to know where everyone is and has been.

Would you support CCTV inside all homes? Would massively reduce the damage on society from domestic and child abuse and if you haven’t got anything to hide then what’s the problem?
There is no expectation of privacy in public. CCTV in homes means violating private space, as would mandatory cameras inside the vehicle. All the system would know about is that vehicle ID X, owned by person Y, was at some position. It would know nothing about the person driving it or the other people inside. Sorting that out is a responsibility for the vehicle owner, unless they report to the police that their vehicle has been stolen.
 

Meerkat

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There is no expectation of privacy in public.
There absolutely is! I think you are mixing up being visible with having a government record of all your movements.
As for the rest I am impressed by your optimism in the IT sector! History and experience tells me that such an enormous project, with multiple interfaces and change mechanisms, plus physical equipment requirements will be far from easy. How is the Airwave replacement going? What about the German truck tolling system?
Fraud prevention would be the prevention of hacked units, unit switches, fake addresses etc etc
What about faulty units by the way? 40m cars is going to involve a lot of faulty units.
 

NotATrainspott

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There absolutely is! I think you are mixing up being visible with having a government record of all your movements.
As for the rest I am impressed by your optimism in the IT sector! History and experience tells me that such an enormous project, with multiple interfaces and change mechanisms, plus physical equipment requirements will be far from easy. How is the Airwave replacement going? What about the German truck tolling system?
Fraud prevention would be the prevention of hacked units, unit switches, fake addresses etc etc
What about faulty units by the way? 40m cars is going to involve a lot of faulty units.
The most radical thing about this tax proposal is that it is effectively nothing but a software problem, not a hardware one. And, it's largely a backend one at that. The impact of this is that the risks involved are massively reduced.

What would be the most complex and novel interface? It would be the reporting of vehicle data to the DVLA. But, since all the vehicles are doing is reporting limited facts (vehicle ID X was at this position Y at this time Z), the interface is quite small. Since all EVs will have internet connectivity and GPS as standard, there is no need for new hardware. Shifting the complexity of the system into the software hosted by the DVLA means that any changes can be implemented without the need to roll out new versions of software across the industry, which would indeed take years.

The backup audit ANPR system doesn't need to be complicated either. All it needs to do is remember that vehicle X was at position Y at time Z. It doesn't even need to have a live connection to the rest of the system. The process of verifying that the vehicles are reporting their position correctly would be done in batch in the background. It doesn't really matter if it takes 7 days to confirm that there's a problem with the car position reporting - the threat is that people aren't going to get away with it, rather than them being caught instantaneously. It's not dissimilar to how people know they'll be caught eventually, without warning, if they don't have their car tax, insurance or MOT sorted. The car doesn't need to stop working to make the threat real.

GPS and internet connectivity are pretty fundamental now to the user experience of running the most modern EVs. I'm not talking about a random box added onto the car like those insurance black boxes. This is a fundamental part of the ownership experience. Have you ever seen what it's like to own a Tesla? It's in another world compared to traditional cars.

The single biggest factor in favour of this taxation approach though is that we're going to move to a world where cars drive themselves anyway. People are already desperately keen to move to subscription models when it allows them to have shinier cars with more features. Even if the government weren't watching, the finance company almost certainly will be for human-piloted cars. In a world where most people just rent their cars as and when they need them, the rental/car sharing/driverless taxi firm will be collecting all this movement data for their own purposes. Handing it over to the government for road taxation is a fairly minimal step beyond that.
 

The Ham

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One thing that's worth noting is that the total fuel cost of cars typically is in the range of 10p to 15p per mile. Any such tax is likely to be somewhere in the region of 60% of that amount. As such the "reward" even for someone doing 20,000 miles a year in fully bypassing the system would be something like £1,200. However that would mean almost certainly getting caught within a year.

As such the level of reward for most people would be fairly small (up to a few hundred pounds a year). This would mean any hack to the system (which would have to be fairly sophisticated to ensure that it wasn't caught) would likely be limited in the number of people willing to use it. Given the risks in producing such a hack, chances are anyone selling such a system would want a significant fee for their work. This would therefore set the risk/reward ratio as fairly poor.
 

DynamicSpirit

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You don’t really need a mobile, you can turn tracking off, you can switch the phone off
Sure, you can, but the point is that lots of people don't and they don't come to any harm as a result. I've never bothered turning tracking on my phone and I've never noticed any problems resulting from having it on.

You don’t really need a mobile, you can turn tracking off, you can switch the phone off
I am not even convinced by this pro - can you define “more efficient use of roads”?
Cars being more evenly distributed around the clock and on different routes, so you don't see, for example, a road jammed up with cars, some of which could've easily made their journey an hour later, and an hour later that same road is almost empty. And also, fewer people using cars and more using public transport in the areas where there is most demand on road space (because the higher road prices at those places/times incentivised more people to shift to public transport).

So you are planning on giving Big Brother access to your car location at all times? The criminals will quickly find ways around it - wouldn’t you just need a wire mesh faraday cage around the unit?
It's not 'big brother' it's the authorities responsible for charging your car for which roads it drives on, and those responsible for crime detection - the police, etc. And by referring to groups such as the police with the pejorative term 'big brother' you're conveying the impression to me that you're not interested in a rational debate.

As to criminals finding their way around it... well yes, that's always a problem with crime - criminals try to evade the police's attempts to catch them. But I assume you're not suggesting that's a reason to give up fighting crime. Likewise, some people find ways on the railways to evade buying tickets. But somehow I doubt you're suggesting we stop selling tickets or trying to enforce revenue collection because of that.

Faraday cage? Depends how the system works. Hopefully any actual system would be designed to make it reasonably hard to circumvent. But if people did find a way to block the signal coming from a car, that would presumably very quickly flag up on any decent IT system that the car registered to the person at address X is no longer communicating its location, and therefore may warrant some investigation. At the very worst, if someone commits a crime using a car whose 'GPS' has been deactivated, the police will have a fairly small list of uncommunicative cars that it could be which would presumably speed up their investigation.
 

Roger100

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I am amazed that there are people here who relish authorities tracking us 24/7 and think that there would be some benefit to this. And people who think we can be persuaded to abandon our cars and revert to public transport. Perhaps they live in places like London where there is a density of population sufficient to support near 24-hour transport systems.

Where I live this, in a Durham pit village, they have to be joking. I use the train to get to London and back, but the only stations where London trains stop are Durham and Hartlepool. I can't get a bus to either station to catch an early train. The 6.30 am local bus to Hartlepool was OK last year, but as I was the only passenger they have axed this. The upcoming revised route will not go the the station. Getting back is a joke, the buses finish early and taxis for the 9 mile route cost more than the train ticket. Durham station parking can cost more than the train ticket too. Even getting a bus between villages can take hours. I rarely use them, even though they are free to me.

The reason we use cars is that they are convenient and adapt to our travelling times and destinations. We don't have to stand out in the open at night waiting for a bus that might not arrive. Out of big cities, public transport will never replace cars, it just can't, the cost would be too high. As for EVs, in these villages where on-the-road parking is the norm (no drives or garages) - they are simply impractical. There is quite a bit of horse-drawn traffic up here too - you can buy hay in some of the local grocers too!
 

DynamicSpirit

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I am amazed that there are people here who relish authorities tracking us 24/7 and think that there would be some benefit to this.
Could you point us to any posts in this thread in which anyone has indicated that they relish the authorities tracking us 24/7? Because off the top of my head, I can't see any.

I can see several posts (including mine) in which people have suggested that automatically tracking *motor vehicles* 24/7 could be a reasonable solution to the problem of charging for road use (with additional crime-fighting related benefits), but that's not the same thing. And proposing something as a reasonable solution isn't the same thing as relishing something.
 

NotATrainspott

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I am amazed that there are people here who relish authorities tracking us 24/7 and think that there would be some benefit to this. And people who think we can be persuaded to abandon our cars and revert to public transport. Perhaps they live in places like London where there is a density of population sufficient to support near 24-hour transport systems.

Where I live this, in a Durham pit village, they have to be joking. I use the train to get to London and back, but the only stations where London trains stop are Durham and Hartlepool. I can't get a bus to either station to catch an early train. The 6.30 am local bus to Hartlepool was OK last year, but as I was the only passenger they have axed this. The upcoming revised route will not go the the station. Getting back is a joke, the buses finish early and taxis for the 9 mile route cost more than the train ticket. Durham station parking can cost more than the train ticket too. Even getting a bus between villages can take hours. I rarely use them, even though they are free to me.

The reason we use cars is that they are convenient and adapt to our travelling times and destinations. We don't have to stand out in the open at night waiting for a bus that might not arrive. Out of big cities, public transport will never replace cars, it just can't, the cost would be too high. As for EVs, in these villages where on-the-road parking is the norm (no drives or garages) - they are simply impractical. There is quite a bit of horse-drawn traffic up here too - you can buy hay in some of the local grocers too!
I don't think you understand the nature of road charging. The goal is not to reduce car usage to zero. The goal is to encourage people to switch to more efficient ways of traveling whenever that is possible. In rural areas and low-demand times (e.g. at 3am), there will be fewer opportunities for people to switch. However, there will also be less impact of one more car on the road anyway. The clear advantage of a system which disaggregates road usage to this extent is that you can actually charge based on the impact of you driving at that exact point in time. At 3am on a country lane there's basically no reason to charge people to drive at all. At 8:30am in a city centre on a weekday, it's a different matter. If you just charge based on energy consumption or overall mileage figure, that nuance is lost. You end up heavily over-charging for a 3am trip in the countryside and heavily under-charging for a 8:30am school run.

The fact that public transport is crap outside London is not a reason why we can't attempt to fix the car tax system. Public transport outside London is crap because successive governments have ignored the real but hidden costs of private motoring, and instead fixated on the smaller but obvious costs of subsidising bus services. With a road charging scheme, the real cost of private motoring becomes obvious again. At that point, it is easier for people to make sensible decisions about how they want to travel around. Demand for public transport would increase, making it more viable, and the public political demand for high quality public transport would increase too.
 
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I am amazed that there are people here who relish authorities tracking us 24/7 and think that there would be some benefit to this. And people who think we can be persuaded to abandon our cars and revert to public transport. Perhaps they live in places like London where there is a density of population sufficient to support near 24-hour transport systems.
Although London has a far higher percentage of people using public transport than anywhere else in the country, that does not mean Londoners have abandoned cars. Almost every residential street in inner London has bumper-to-bumper car parking at night. In the outer suburbs, many homes facilitate off-road parking but several cars are still parked in those roads.
 

Meerkat

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The most radical thing about this tax proposal is that it is effectively nothing but a software problem, not a hardware one. And, it's largely a backend one at that. The impact of this is that the risks involved are massively reduced.
Not a hardware problem? Apart from needing to create a standard for a secure GPS system with the right communication standard?
Your point about EVs already having the system actually makes it worse. You have to authorise units that can interface into all those varied systems, and if the inbuilt system isn’t reliable/secure enough then find a way to remove it and replace it with a new system.
Then someone chucks a cheap GPS Jammer on eBay and it all falls apart.

It's not 'big brother' it's the authorities responsible for charging your car for which roads it drives on, and those responsible for crime detection - the police, etc. And by referring to groups such as the police with the pejorative term 'big brother' you're conveying the impression to me that you're not interested in a rational debate.
Tracking the movements of citizens is absolutely Big Brother. A lot of people forget that how much you trust the current government and police force is not relevant - you have to be confident that you will have similar faith in every future government and police force.
If we had a Momentum Government (pick your own right wing equivalent organisation) that decided it needed to find out who the ‘subversives’ are and who they were meeting we can’t then row back and say “actually this car tracking is really dangerous, can we turn it off please?”.
Also there is always mission creep. Even the best intentioned police and security services will gradually take more intrusive powers - they see the effects and threat of the really dangerous people so they become naturally biased toward security above personal freedom.
 

underbank

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Where I live this, in a Durham pit village, they have to be joking. I use the train to get to London and back, but the only stations where London trains stop are Durham and Hartlepool.
I think the bigger issue is that you need to travel so far to London to work (even if not regular). The London centric nature of the economy is what is going to ruin the country. We need to get "good" jobs back into the regions and stop the concentration on London.

We've been going to northern Uni open days with our son. He's wanting to do the "placement" year and nearly all the unis have said most of the placements will be in London. It's crazy.

There used to be head office and regional offices of banks, big law firms, national accountancy firms, insurance firms etc in smaller cities and large towns - nearly all that's gone and most are now centralised in London - that has meant no decent jobs in the regions.

I'd like to hope that we'll start to see changes during the fallout and reconstruction of the economy after Covid-19 is over.
 

Bikeman78

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Sure, you can, but the point is that lots of people don't and they don't come to any harm as a result. I've never bothered turning tracking on my phone and I've never noticed any problems resulting from having it on.
Google sends me a report every month. It's very accurate, it can tell if I'm walking, cycling, driving or on a train. It got rather confused when I spent an hour underground at Fulton Street station on the New York City subway.

As for the authorities tracking me. I think they would get bored very quickly.
 

NotATrainspott

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Not a hardware problem? Apart from needing to create a standard for a secure GPS system with the right communication standard?
Your point about EVs already having the system actually makes it worse. You have to authorise units that can interface into all those varied systems, and if the inbuilt system isn’t reliable/secure enough then find a way to remove it and replace it with a new system.
Then someone chucks a cheap GPS Jammer on eBay and it all falls apart.
This measure would realistically only apply to new EVs moving forward. Legacy vehicles (including early EVs) would continue on the system with tax levels adjusted to minimise any distortion (e.g. ensuring people aren't incentivised to hold onto old petrol/diesel cars just for tax reasons).

A secure GPS system isn't as much of a requirement as you think it is. That's because the risk/reward of fiddling with the GPS system (including with external devices like GPS blockers) is heavily tilted towards risk. With the random ANPR audits, we will be able to detect cars mis-reporting their location. Once we know someone is cheating, then just like car tax, that would be a justification for the police to pull them over or for them to receive a very nasty letter from the DVLA.

Vehicles already know their VIN and their GPS position. We're talking about a short loop of code which saves this data every few seconds, then dumps it over the internet to a secure API endpoint. It's really not rocket science. Individual car manufacturers could implement their own vehicle-to-network protocols for it if they're able to pass on the data to the DVLA.

Tracking the movements of citizens is absolutely Big Brother. A lot of people forget that how much you trust the current government and police force is not relevant - you have to be confident that you will have similar faith in every future government and police force.
If we had a Momentum Government (pick your own right wing equivalent organisation) that decided it needed to find out who the ‘subversives’ are and who they were meeting we can’t then row back and say “actually this car tracking is really dangerous, can we turn it off please?”.
Also there is always mission creep. Even the best intentioned police and security services will gradually take more intrusive powers - they see the effects and threat of the really dangerous people so they become naturally biased toward security above personal freedom.
That horse has well and truly bolted. The state can already get a court warrant to track your location, or just full-on follow you around with uncover agents.

We're in a world right now where the only way to ensure people won't die from a pandemic might be to do mass location tracking.
 

Meerkat

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That horse has well and truly bolted. The state can already get a court warrant to track your location, or just full-on follow you around with uncover agents.
Getting a court order for your phone, with a buffer of reluctant phone companies, isn’t the same as having a government system that could instantly download your travel history and current position.
There is also no legal compulsion to register your phone to your home address, have location services enabled, have the phone switched on etc etc.
You also have massive faith in IT software and hardware projects which aren’t supported by experience.
 

al78

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Would you support CCTV inside all homes? Would massively reduce the damage on society from domestic and child abuse and if you haven’t got anything to hide then what’s the problem?
Just because I have nothing to hide does not mean I don't value privacy, so the answer is no. It is like when I have nothing to say on a matter, that doesn't mean I don't value free speech.
 

squizzler

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The proposal could be a useful way to salvage value from some of the sunken costs in infrastructure and technologies that were developed during the driverless car delusion of the decade just gone.
 
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DynamicSpirit

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Tracking the movements of citizens is absolutely Big Brother. A lot of people forget that how much you trust the current government and police force is not relevant - you have to be confident that you will have similar faith in every future government and police force.
If we had a Momentum Government (pick your own right wing equivalent organisation) that decided it needed to find out who the ‘subversives’ are and who they were meeting we can’t then row back and say “actually this car tracking is really dangerous, can we turn it off please?”.
Also there is always mission creep. Even the best intentioned police and security services will gradually take more intrusive powers - they see the effects and threat of the really dangerous people so they become naturally biased toward security above personal freedom.
I don't really agree with the Big Brother analogy, although I can see why you'd be concerned about future Governments. The arguments you are making are pretty much the same arguments that people were making 20 years ago against installing CCTV cameras in public places. Now they are almost completely accepted - because it's clear that they are very useful for fighting crime and have so far had no significant disbenefits.

The key thing for me is, how is the information being used. As long as it's used for legitimate purposes - such as accurate road charging, then I don't see a problem. Obviously, if a future Government started misusing this kind of thing to restrict civil liberties or freedom of expression, then that would be a problem, and then your Big Brother analogy would become relevant. But, to my mind, the best defence against that is a robust civil society and democracy, not to just ignore potentially very useful technology. If you took the line that, you're not going to introduce any technology that might in theory be misused by a future Government if civil liberties became substantially eroded in the future, then we wouldn't have any TV (potential propaganda machine), Internet (ditto), military forces (potential instrument of repression) or probably almost any other part of modern life.

Also, the concerns you have about tracking cars... well to some extent that's already true of many people who use public transport. For example, TfL has a complete record of every recent journey I've made on my Oyster card and at what times. And I'm going to hazard a guess that for much of those journeys, I was being recorded on CCTV. Do you object to that? If not, why do you think movements of cars should have better privacy rules than people who use public transport?
 

Tetchytyke

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I don't think that's a legitimate comparison. @NotATrainspott is talking about monitoring where a vehicle is - there's no CCTV involved, so no personal images.
Given that a murderer in Wales was recently convicted precisely because his vehicle reported this sort of information to his vehicle's manufacturer, I think you underplay just how useful this information is to the police.

Catching murderers is A Good Thing. But not everything our government do is A Good Thing.

Tiny snippets of information here and there build a big picture quickly. A household's internet history shows someone went on the Marie Stopes website, phone records show someone rang their appointment line, car charging shows the family vehicle went to a car park two blocks from their hospital and was there five hours, and school records show a teenage girl lives in the house. But who knows what could possibly be happening!

Now maybe you and @NotATrainspott can argue why the benefits of this proposed system justify the resulting intrusion of people's privacy, but pretending that there is no intrusion is simply wrong.
 

Meerkat

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The arguments you are making are pretty much the same arguments that people were making 20 years ago against installing CCTV cameras in public places. Now they are almost completely accepted - because it's clear that they are very useful for fighting crime and have so far had no significant disbenefits.
Actually there are now big concerns about CCTV now that it has similar potential to your car GPS tax scheme. Previously “where was Bob Smith last Tuesday night” would be a huge human CCTV trawl, but with face matching and CCTV stored and connected they could just put Bob’s photo in the system and wait for the database to kick out an answer. And it still would probably not give as accurate an answer as your car tracking.

As long as it's used for legitimate purposes - such as accurate road charging, then I don't see a problem
How do you control that? If I worked for MI-5 and saw what they have to see every day I bet I would slowly start pushing the boundaries and doing more of what was possible rather than what was legal.

For example, TfL has a complete record of every recent journey I've made on my Oyster card and at what times.
An Oyster card can be anonymous can’t it?
 

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