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'Black box' standards coming for cars

August 08, 2018, 02:38:10 am suzytr says: Hello, any good churches in the Sacto, CA area, also looking in Reno NV, thanks in advance and God Bless you Smiley
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September 24, 2017, 10:45:16 pm Psalm 51:17 says: The specific rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league rulebook. It states: “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. “During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”
September 20, 2017, 04:32:32 am Christian40 says: "The most popular Hepatitis B vaccine is nothing short of a witch’s brew including aluminum, formaldehyde, yeast, amino acids, and soy. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin that destroys cellular metabolism and function. Hundreds of studies link to the ravaging effects of aluminum. The other proteins and formaldehyde serve to activate the immune system and open up the blood-brain barrier. This is NOT a good thing."
September 19, 2017, 03:59:21 am Christian40 says: bbc international did a video about there street preaching they are good witnesses
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September 14, 2017, 04:31:26 am Christian40 says: i have thought that i'm reaping from past sins then my life has been impacted in ways from having non believers in my ancestry.
September 11, 2017, 06:59:33 am Psalm 51:17 says: The law of reaping and sowing. It's amazing how God's mercy and longsuffering has hovered over America so long. (ie, the infrastructure is very bad here b/c for many years, they were grossly underspent on. 1st Tim 6:10, the god of materialism has its roots firmly in the West) And remember once upon a time ago when shacking up b/w straight couples drew shock awe?

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Author Topic: 'Black box' standards coming for cars  (Read 3253 times)
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« Reply #30 on: September 25, 2014, 08:17:01 am »

Miss a Payment? Good Luck Moving That Car

The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.

The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.

Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.

“I felt absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter. It was not the only time this happened: Her car was shut down that March, once in April and again in June.

This new technology is bringing auto loans — and Wall Street’s version of Big Brother — into the lives of people with credit scores battered by the financial downturn.

Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years. The jump has been driven in large part by the demand among investors for securities backed by the loans, which offer high returns at a time of low interest rates. Roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year were subprime, and the volume of subprime auto loans reached more than $145 billion in the first three months of this year.

But before they can drive off the lot, many subprime borrowers like Ms. Bolender must have their car outfitted with a so-called starter interrupt device, which allows lenders to remotely disable the ignition. Using the GPS technology on the devices, the lenders can also track the cars’ location and movements.

The devices, which have been installed in about two million vehicles, are helping feed the subprime boom by enabling more high-risk borrowers to get loans. But there is a big catch. By simply clicking a mouse or tapping a smartphone, lenders retain the ultimate control. Borrowers must stay current with their payments, or lose access to their vehicle.

rest: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/miss-a-payment-good-luck-moving-that-car/?_php=true&_type=blogs&src=twr&_r=0
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« Reply #31 on: April 03, 2015, 11:25:34 am »

A year after firestorm, DHS wants access to license-plate tracking system

The Department of Homeland Security is seeking bids from companies able to provide law enforcement officials with access to a national license-plate tracking system — a year after canceling a similar solicitation over privacy issues.

The reversal comes after officials said they had determined they could address concerns raised by civil liberties advocates and lawmakers about the prospect of the department’s gaining widespread access, without warrants, to a system that holds billions of records that reveal drivers’ whereabouts.

In a privacy impact assessment issued Thursday, the DHS says that it is not seeking to build a national database or contribute data to an existing system.

Instead, it is seeking bids from companies that already gather the data to say how much they would charge to grant access to law enforcement officers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS agency. Officials said they also want to impose limits on ICE personnel’s access to and use of the data.

“These restrictions will provide essential privacy and civil liberty protections, while enhancing our agents’ and officers’ ability to locate and apprehend suspects who could pose a threat to national security and public safety,” DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement. The solicitation was posted publicly Thursday.

Privacy advocates who reviewed a copy of the privacy impact assessment said it fell short.

“If this goes forward, DHS will have warrantless access to location information going back at least five years about virtually every adult driver in the U.S., and sometimes to their image as well,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology.

Commercial license-plate tracking systems already are used by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as some local and state law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement groups say the fears of misuse are overblown. But news of the DHS solicitation triggered a public firestorm last year, leading Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to cancel it and order a review of the privacy concerns raised by advocates and lawmakers.

Over the following months, ICE and DHS privacy officials developed policies aimed at increasing “the public’s trust in our ability to use the data responsibly,” according to a senior DHS privacy officer. The DHS is the first federal agency, officials said, to issue a privacy assessment on such a solicitation.

Commercial license-plate-tracking systems can include a variety of data. Images of plate numbers are generally captured by high-speed cameras that are mounted on vehicles or in fixed locations. Some systems also capture images of the drivers and passengers.

The largest commercial database is owned by Vigilant Solutions, which as of last fall had more than 2.5 billion records. Its database grows by 2.7 million records a day.

DHS officials say Vigilant’s database, to which some field offices have had access on a subscription basis, has proved valuable in solving years-old cases. Privacy advocates, however, are concerned about the potential for abuse and note that commercial data banks generally do not have limits on how long they retain data.

ICE said it will restrict agents’ access to the data to the number of years corresponding to the relevant statute of limitations for any crime being investigated. For civil immigration cases, where there is no statute of limitations, the agency is adopting a five-year limit, officials said.

ICE officers and agents also will be required to enter the type of crime associated with each query to gain access to the database, and there will be random audits to ensure that no one is using the database to look up information on personal associates. Officers and agents may search only for particular plate numbers.

ICE queries will not be shared with other agencies, unless they are working on a joint investigation, a senior DHS official said. ICE personnel also will be able to put plate numbers of interest on an “alert list,” enabling those personnel to be notified almost instantly when a plate is spotted.

Ginger McCall, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Open Government Project, said the new safeguards are not “meaningful.” She called the data retention requirements “exceedingly vague” and said tracking a person through alert lists without a warrant is troubling.

The senior DHS privacy officer said case law does not require the government to seek a warrant for such data.

“This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not nearly strong enough, given the particular acute privacy and civil liberties issues implicated by locational data,” McCall said.

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« Reply #32 on: April 26, 2015, 06:43:28 am »

The end of the license plate

Until recently our auto travels — in public — have been essentially private. Scattered individuals may have observed our locations at given moments, but the bulk of our public movements have been practically obscure. Nobody collected data in a systematic or useful way, and our movements were lost to history.

That is no longer true. Public and private entities are scanning license plates, snapping photos of our cars, and storing the times and locations where they appear. Close correlation between license plate numbers and particular drivers means that databases of mundane information about auto movements also reveal quite sensitive information about doctor and psychologist visits, business meetings, trysts, gatherings of legal advice and participation in political advocacy. License plates and cameras are, as I testified to Congress more than a dozen years ago, "Big Brother infrastructure."

License plates are a once-sensible administrative tool that today undercuts privacy. It's possible to protect privacy and administer traffic laws at the same time, but it's not going to be easy.

Surveillance cameras are catalyzing this conversation about "privacy in public," but the root of the problem is the lowly license plate. It's an administrative tool from a bygone technological era that has new consequences in the digital age — new, strongly negative consequences for privacy.

If a law were proposed today requiring people walking on sidewalks to wear name tags, Americans would strongly reject such an attack on the freedom to move about anonymously. The trade-offs don't make sense in name-tagging because people walking have far less capacity to harm one another than people behind the wheel of cars. But the once-sensible public identification requirement for operating a motor vehicle now reveals much, much more.

Auto licensing has public safety objectives so obvious that any questioning of it causes some people to sputter. License plates allow investigation and arrest of speeders, hit-and-run drivers and bank robbers in getaway vehicles. Awareness that they can be identified probably keeps some drivers in line.

There are few obvious alternatives to automobile licensing, so it seems like regulating surveillance cameras is the only option. But that is essentially futile. A law against snapping images of cars would be impossible to enforce, and we wouldn't want to have such rules in a free country, which strongly favors the right to record true information that is available in public spaces.

To administer auto movements on streets, look to the skies. The tail numbers of aircrafts can't be seen at the distances involved in aviation, so aircraft carry transponders that receive and reply to radio-frequency interrogation. This helps identify them on air traffic control radar. Collision avoidance systems use these radio frequency identification (RFID) systems to detect aircrafts at risk of colliding with each other.

Promiscuous RFID systems on cars would be no better, and possibly worse for privacy, than license plates. But they can be designed to respond only to qualified interrogators, such as law enforcement or other licensed vehicles. Such systems could maintain records for car owners of each call and response, allowing oversight of the use and misuse of automobile identification systems.

Such a technology could open new avenues for driving control and law enforcement. A cleverly designed system might allow drivers to "tag" each other with likes or dislikes that cumulatively and anonymously signal good and bad behavior to drivers and authorities alike.

A badly designed system could be worse than the status quo, but replacing license plates with smartly-tailored RFID systems would permit drivers to navigate the streets of cities without feeding surveillance cameras the records that can be used for comprehensive tracking of law-abiding individuals.

State legislators should begin the transition now. The right design for auto RFID will take a good deal of planning and testing. But the best response to the undesirable privacy effects of auto surveillance is the end of the license plate.

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« Reply #33 on: May 04, 2015, 05:57:36 pm »

DHS Scales Back License Plate-Tracking Surveillance

This story was updated May 4 at 4:35 p.m. to include comment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Department of Homeland Security has scaled back the scope of contractor requirements for what would have been a nationwide license plate-scanning effort, amid continued uproar over the on-again-off-again project.

The new system, announced last month, will compile license plate records from "at least 25 states" instead of all states, DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said in a May 1 modification of the contract requirements. Officials later told Nextgov relaxing the requirements would allow more companies to compete for the job.

More than a year ago, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson cancelled a similar plate-tracking project after concerns were raised that plate data-searching tools essentially amounted to location-tracking technology.

ICE officials say the service is intended to help apprehend immigrant fugitives, along with individuals suspected of child pornography, illegal arms exports and other illegal activity.

Under the revised plan, the number of records supplied monthly by the contract would also decrease. The modified contract says the vendor must supply at least 6 million records per month, replacing April specifications that at least 30 million records be available.

The number of metro areas under surveillance also will be somewhat restricted. Rather than compiling plate data from 30 metro areas, the vendor will aggregate data from 24 metro areas.

License-plate recognition companies index images of plates from surveillance cameras at toll roads, parking lots and other locations across the country, in part, to help authorities track the movements of suspects.

The ICE service will scour for "known license plate numbers associated with the aliens who are immigration enforcement priorities” and track “where and when the vehicle has traveled within a specified period of time,” government officials say.

Homeland Security maintains the service will not create a repository of license plate data, but instead create a mechanism to search separate databases maintained by private companies and government agencies.

"ICE is neither seeking to build nor contribute to any public or private" database, officials said in a solicitation for vendors issued April 17. The purpose of the contract is to provide authorities round-the-clock access to "a commercially available, query-based" license plate database for ICE law enforcement personnel.

Early in April, indications surfaced that last year’s nixed project was making a comeback, with the publication of a privacy impact assessment describing how ICE "intends to procure the services of a commercial vendor of [license plate reader] information."

The American Civil Liberties Union and other public advocacy groups still view the service as akin to having Big Brother in the passenger seat.

"It's appropriate to use license plate scanners to check for wanted vehicles, but the technology should never be used to store up databases of the movements of vehicles that are not on any hot lists," ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley and ACLU legal assistant Bennett Stein wrote in an April 6 blog entry. "It violates the longstanding tenet that the government not monitor citizens unless it has individualized suspicion of involvement in wrongdoing."

On Friday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation that would have restricted the time period authorities can store data from license plate readers, according to The Washington Post. 

"In siding with police and prosecutors," McAuliffe argued the measures "would have added unintended burdens to fighting crime," The Post reported.

Three years ago, ICE was poised to ink a sole-source contract with license plate-tracker Vigilant Video that would have provided more than 685 million continually updated images of plates, Nextgov reported at the time.

The system was aimed at helping field personnel pinpoint the whereabouts of escaped undocumented immigrants. Five days later, the agency abandoned the deal, saying another unnamed vendor came forward claiming to sell the same vehicle-tracking services. The agency never identified the second company.

Proposals for the new contract are due by the end of the day Wednesday.

Late Monday afternoon, ICE officials said they reduced the the amount of information contractors must assemble to lower the bar for interested, but less data-rich companies. Depending on which contractor wins, it seems the data collection might actually grow. 

“ICE modified the solicitation based on feedback from vendors requesting that the minimum threshold for records be lowered in order to facilitate greater competition," agency spokeswoman Gillian M. Christensen said in an email. "ICE has not scaled back the scope or protections. We have lowered some of the minimum requirements to allow additional commercial vendors to participate in this acquisition.”

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« Reply #34 on: May 07, 2015, 07:44:31 am »

“Your” Car? Not So Much…

The government wants to control your car – how it’s made, what it comes equipped with and (of course) how you’re allowed to drive it. Now comes the other half of the pincers:DMCA lead

The car companies want to prevent you from working on the thing.

Modifications – performance enhancements – and even routine maintenance are to become illegal via the application (and enforcement) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to cars.   

They are claiming propriety rights to the software embedded in the computer – technically, the Electronic Control Unit or ECU – that pretty much runs a modern car.   They claim – and you knew this was coming, right? – that saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety is threatened by people doing their own maintenance or tweaking/tuning as such might affect how the various saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety systems embedded in the car and controlled by the ECU operate.

A blind stroke victim ought to have seen this coming.

Cars, claim the car companies, are mobile computing devices – you know, like sail fawns – and so fall under the aegis of the DMCA. Have a read:

“Automobiles are inherently mobile, and increasingly they contain equipment that would commonly be considered computing devices… Many of the ECUs embodied in today’s motor vehicles are carefully calibrated to satisfy federal or state regulatory requirements with respect to emissions control, fuel economy, or vehicle safety. Allowing vehicle owners to add and remove programs at whim is highly likely to take vehicles out of compliance with these requirements, rendering the operation or re-sale of the vehicle legally problematic. The decision to employ access controls to hinder unauthorized “tinkering” with these vital computer programs is necessary in order to protect the safety and security of drivers and passengers and to reduce the level of non-compliance with regulatory standards. We urge the Copyright Office to give full consideration to the impacts on critical national energy and environmental goals, as well as motor vehicle safety, in its decision on this proposed exemption. Since the record on this proposal contains no evidence regarding its applicability to or impact on motor vehicles, cars and trucks should be specifically excluded from any exemption that is recommended in this area.”

This statement (see here for the full text) was issued by the Auto Alliance – the great collective that speaketh for every major car company doing business in the United States, including Ford, GM, Mazda, Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota, VW/Audi, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo, et al.  DMCA 1

Note carefully the way that government edicts relating to saaaaaaaaaaaaafety (and emission and fuel efficiency) are now being turned outward, against the car owner. Heretofore, these mandates directly affected the car companies, who were forced to add, as an example, a (cue El Guapo) plethora of air bags to new vehicles, or direct injection and auto-stop/start (more recently) to eke out a fractional gain in MPGs in order to appease the federal government’s Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) fatwa.

But now, the wheel turns – and what’s been good for the goose (the industry) is going to be good for the gander (us), too. It’s a kind of vengeful lashing out, on the one hand. The industry – sick, probably, of taking these endless demands on the chin – with most consumers being engineering illiterates and just expecting cars to become ever saaaaaaaaaaaafer, ever more fuel efficient, by decree.

Just – cue Captain Picard – make it so.

Well, no.

It takes a lot of brain sweat to figure out how to – for example – maintain the capability to get to 60 MPH in less than 10 seconds while also averaging 35.5 MPG (next year’s CAFE fatwa). Let alone 50 MPG (the proposed CAFE fatwa for 2020). Let’s make the consumers feel our pain, they reasoned. Perhaps they will begin to ask questions and come to understand that there truly ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.DMCA lead 2

More likely, though, is that the perfect vehicle for exercising complete control over “our” (air quotes) cars was conceived – and is now in the process of being born. It is genius, really. You have to admire it.

First, establish the principle in law that the government’s job is to be your parent – to protect you from yourself. From theoretical risk, as defined by government. You might wreck your car. If you do, an air bag might save your life (it might also gouge out one of your eyes, but that’s a mere incidental). Ergo, government has the right to require that you buy a car equipped with an air bag.

Because the government is your Mommy.

And now – drum roll, please – government (egged on by the car companies, which are big cartels and becoming indistinguishable from the government) has the right to criminalize any “meddling” by you with the car that could even theoretically compromise the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety of the vehicle.

Or its emissions output.

Or its gas mileage.

It will be become an actionable offense to use more gas than you’re allowed. Notwithstanding you paid for it. High-flow injectors? A conical air filter? $500 fine. Or maybe they just seize the car.

Or, just turn it off – remotely.

None of this is new, by the way. For decades, it has been illegal in California and some other states to “modify or alter” any drivetrain (the engine) components that affect emissions output. Even if emissions themselves are not affected at all. Or affected for the better. Ask someone who lives in California  about this. It is even illegal (in CA) to put a more modern (and less “emitting”) engine in an older vehicle, regardless of whether the newer engine’s tailpipe outpourings are less than those produced by the car’s original/factory engine. You could, however, file paperwork with an entity called the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and – maybe – get an exemption.DMCA lead 3

DMCA will close that “loophole” – and do it nationally.

What’s been implicit for a long time in American politics and law is becoming quite explicit:

We don’t own anything anymore.   

The government does.

What does it mean to own something? Is it your name on a piece of paper? Renters also have their names on a piece of paper. It is called a lease. You are allowed temporary and conditional use of the property.

We are all renters now.

Your home is a rental – whether you’ve got a mortgage or not. You pay rent in perpetuity to the county/state in the form of property tax. If you decline to pay the rent, you will find out in short order who truly does own “your” home.

DMCA will apply the principle to “our” cars, too. You will make the payments – but you will only be allowed to use the car as decreed. And the enforcement mechanism is already in place.data recorder

It is already in the car.

Every new car not only has an ECU, it also has the capability to be accessed electronically without your knowledge or consent. If it has a system such as GM’s OnStar (and other automakers have similar systems now) your car can have a furtive conversation with the car company that built it – or the government – which (again) increasingly amounts to the same thing.

They see you when you’re sleeping, the know when you’re awake, they know if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake…

Or else.

The “or else” being they’ll simply shut you down once alerted. Once the car narcs you out.

In the same of saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety.

It calls to mind a famous epitaph, that of novelist H.G. Wells:

Goddamn you all: I told you so.

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« Reply #35 on: May 20, 2015, 04:32:28 pm »

Oregon to test pay-per-mile idea as replacement for gas tax

Oregon is about to embark on a first-in-the-nation program that aims to charge car owners not for the fuel they use, but for the miles they drive.

The program is meant to help the state raise more revenue to pay for road and bridge projects at a time when money generated from gasoline taxes are declining across the country, in part, because of greater fuel efficiency and the increasing popularity of fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars.

Starting July 1, up to 5,000 volunteers in Oregon can sign up to drive with devices that collect data on how much they have driven and where. The volunteers will agree to pay 1.5 cents for each mile traveled on public roads within Oregon, instead of the tax now added when filling up at the pump.

Some electric and hybrid car owners, however, say the new tax would be unfair to them and would discourage purchasing of green vehicles.

"This program targets hybrid and electric vehicles, so it's discriminatory," said Patrick Connor, a Beaverton resident who has been driving an electric car since 2007.

State officials say it is only fair for owners of green vehicles to be charged for maintaining roads, just as owners of gasoline-powered vehicles do.

"We know in the future, our ability to pay for maintenance and repair... will be severely impacted if we continue to rely on the gas tax," said Shelley Snow with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Other states are also looking at pay-per-mile as an alternative to dwindling fuel tax revenues.

Last year, California created a committee to study alternatives to the gas tax and design a pilot program; Washington state set money aside to further develop a similar program; and an Indiana bill directs the state to study alternatives and a test project.

While growing in popularity, electric vehicles and hybrids are still in the minority on American roads, even in a state as green-minded as Oregon. Of 3.3 million passenger cars registered in Oregon at the end of 2014, about 68,000 were hybrid, 3,500 electric and 620 plug-in hybrid. A decade ago, only 8,000 hybrids were registered.

However, fuel-economy for gas-powered vehicles has been increasing as technology is developed that addresses public concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil.

Oregon is the only state to actually test-drive the pay-per-mile idea.

The gas tax provides just under half of the money in Oregon's highway fund, and the majority of the money in the federal Highway Trust Fund, of which Oregon receives a portion.

Oregon's share of the fuel tax over the past two decades has been mostly flat and in some years declined, state data show. In 2009, the Legislature raised the tax from 24 cents to 30 cents per gallon, but that's not enough to avert shortfalls, state officials said, because construction costs increase with inflation.

Oregon previously held two rounds of small-scale tests involving GPS devices to track mileage.

The current program, called OreGo, will be the largest yet and will be open to all car types. Of these, no more than 1,500 participating vehicles can get less than 17 miles per gallon, and no more than 1,500 must get at least 17 miles per gallon and less than 22 miles per gallon.

Volunteers will still be paying the fuel tax if they stop for gas. But at the end of the month, depending on the type of car they drive, they will receive either a credit or a bill for the difference in gas taxes paid at the pump.

Private vendors will provide drivers with small digital devices to track miles; other services will also be offered. Volunteers can opt out of the program at any time, and they'll get a refund for miles driven on private property and out of state.

After the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon raised concerns about privacy and government surveillance, the state built protections into the program, said ACLU's interim executive director Jann Carson.

Drivers will be able to install an odometer device without GPS tracking.

For those who use the GPS, the state and private vendors will destroy records of location and daily metered use after 30 days. The program also limits how the data can be aggregated and shared. Law enforcement, for example, won't be able to access the information unless a judge says it's needed.

"This is the government collecting massive amounts of data and we want to ensure the government doesn't keep and use that data for other purposes," Carson said.

The OreGo program is projected to cost $8.4 million to implement and is aimed to gauge public acceptance of the idea of charging motorists per mile of road they travel. It will be up to the Legislature to decide whether to adopt a mandatory road usage charge.

One of the biggest concerns will be whether a program like OreGo could actually discourage people from buying electric or hybrid vehicles.

Drive Oregon, an advocacy group for the electric-vehicle industry, supports the program because every driver should pay for road repairs, executive director Jeff Allen said. Still, he said, "The last thing we need to do right now is to make buying electric cars more expensive or inconvenient."

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« Reply #36 on: July 03, 2015, 09:16:44 am »

Oregon launches program to tax drivers by the mile

David Hastings is a rare American. This long-time hybrid car owner from Oregon wants to pay higher taxes for roads and bridges and says the current 30 cents per gallon state gas tax barely affects him.

"I've been free-loading on the highways for 20 years driving electric cars or hybrid cars, getting at least 40 miles to the gallon. So I haven't been paying my share," Hastings said.

Now, Hastings will pay more thanks to OReGO -- the first pay-by-the-mile program in the U.S.

Oregon’s Department of Transportation has been working on it for 15 years as a way to eventually replace the gas tax, which has been flat due to an influx of high mileage vehicles and people driving less.

Right now the program is voluntary and being capped at 5,000 participants, but an ODOT official told Fox News the ultimate goal is to make it mandatory and change the way states pay for roads -- forever.

"We're trying to make up for a growing deficit, really, because inflation's eating away at our ability to buy asphalt and rebar and the things we need to maintain the roads," said Tom Fuller of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

According to a national usage fee alliance, 28 states are in various stages of following down the same road. However, there are also privacy concerns. Two of the three OReGO systems track and store a car’s every move.

"To put a GPS monitor in everybody's car, the government already knows too much about us as it is," Jeff Kruse, a Republican lawmaker told Fox News.

Others are raising questions about the cost. Getting the gas tax is cheap, but OReGO vendors will eat up 40 cents of every dollar collected, and for those not used to paying any gas tax, it could be a whole new sticker shock – every month.

Jeff Allen, of “Drive Oregon,” supports the one and a half cent per mile usage fee -- to a point.

"We need to be subsidizing and incentivizing electric cars and not putting more taxes or fees on them, not discouraging people from buying them in any way," Allen said.

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« Reply #37 on: June 26, 2016, 01:41:41 pm »

East Coast states want to tax drivers’ travel, not their gas

A group of East Coast states wants to help overhaul the way America pays for its decaying roads, and it’s starting with Monopoly money.

Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire are proposing pilots to figure out how they might charge motorists a fee for the miles they travel — rather than taxing their gas, as state and federal officials do today.

The I-95 Corridor Coalition, which represents transportation officials from 16 states and the District of Columbia, applied for a federal grant last month to test the idea.

Officials would stitch together the policies and technologies needed to count the miles driven by 50 recruits from each of the four states, including state legislators, transportation officials or other willing guinea pigs. They would send out “faux invoices” monthly. And they would collect the data that legislatures — and the driving public — would require to decide if the change makes sense.

Although California plans to launch a pilot in July, also with fake invoices, and Oregon has had success with a volunteer program collecting actual cash, the concept is not particularly well known — or well loved across the country.

The Mineta Transportation Institute, which has polled the public on a variety of tax questions for the past seven years, found that the mileage tax was “unwaveringly unpopular.” In the latest survey, which covered 1,500 people and was released this month, the institute found that support ranged between 23 percent and 48 percent, depending on how the question was framed. More people liked the idea if the mileage tax varied by how much a car pollutes.

But Jennifer Cohan, Delaware’s secretary of transportation and chair of the coalition, said states have no choice but to seek alternatives.

“Reliance on the gas tax as a major contributor to funding transportation is no longer a viable option,” Cohan said.

The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1993, and many states have not indexed their own gas taxes to inflation, so those key funding sources have fallen far behind the nation’s needs.

And efforts to raise gas taxes can hit a political wall, as one did in Delaware last year. “In general, it just leaves a bad taste in their mouth when you mention the words ‘gas tax,’ ” Cohan said.

According to the latest Mineta survey report, authored by Asha Weinstein Agrawal and Hilary Nixon, which was presented this month at the Commonwealth Club of California, between 31 percent and 75 percent of people supported increasing the gas tax — the higher figure if it was dedicated to maintenance.

Delaware ended up raising DMV fees instead. But advocates said that there needs to be a more comprehensive approach to plugging the gaping hole in the nation’s transportation funding, which is why the group of states is delving into the intricacies of “mileage-based user fees.”

Gas prices have stayed low since late 2014. Here's why, how long it could last and who the winners and losers are. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

“It’s kind of hard to wrap your head around it,” Cohan said, adding that she hopes to tap would-be opponents as some of the test subjects if they are awarded the grant.

“Whatever it ends up being, at least we’ll have data. We’ll actually have something to show: This is what it will look like if we actually implement it,” she said.

Privacy remains a key issue, including how the government can track miles traveled without raising fears of snooping on where people are going.

Backers say that they are sensitive to such concerns, particularly after Edward Snowden’s revelations about data collection by the National Security Agency left many spooked about government overreach. At the same time, people readily allow their movements to be charted and their personal details to be broadcast via smartphone apps.

Louis Neudorff, an engineer at the firm CH2M Hill, helped manage Oregon’s effort and would play a key role if the I-95 group secures federal funding. He said there are a range of technological tools that allow miles to be tallied without intrusion. Drivers can plug a counting device into a port already found on many cars, he said. Cellphone apps are another option, including one that calls for the driver to take periodic photos of the odometer. One firm promises to pull mileage data from cars through a device hooked to gas pumps at local service stations, Neudorff said.

Of course, some people have no objections to one of the most straightforward solutions: using GPS to measure distances. Such a method would also help solve one of the big questions the East Coast pilot projects would seek to answer: how to divvy up all the miles (and money) based on which state the car is in.

“You can drive three or four hours in our part of the world and go through three or four states,” said Neudorff, who lives on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Loads of toll data from E-ZPass transponders that are already in many cars could help, he said.

“You cannot mandate GPS or, politically, this will never go anywhere. You have to have choices,” Neudorff said.

Patricia G. Hendren, executive director of the I-95 coalition, said that people could opt out. Any future approach “will offer the option to simply pay an annual fee,” she said. But setting that fee could be sticky.

Backers said such questions, and even basics such as how much to charge per mile, are part of what needs to be hashed out in the experiments. Oregon, for example, has been charging 1.5 cents per mile in its volunteer program, which was designed to raise the same amount as gas-tax revenue.

The intent is that the mileage-based fee “is not additive, but a substitute for the gas tax,” Hendren said. The fake monthly bills would include “estimated gas-tax credits,” she said.

“The idea is to get folks comfortable that mileage-based user fees are a feasible, reasonable and easy-to-use approach,” Hendren said. Vermont is among the five states that signed on for the planning portion of the project, but it is not undertaking a pilot “due to financial constraints,” she said.

Advocates said fairness is a selling point, arguing that people should pay for how much of the roads they use, just as they pay for water or electricity. Under the current system, electric cars avoid the gas tax altogether, though they have big environmental pluses.

“It’s the age-old discussion: whether or not transportation should be user-based or more broadly based, because it’s a basic function of government,” said Aubrey Layne, transportation secretary in Virginia, which did not join the grant application. Layne said he supports the exploration, which could turn out to be “part of the answer.”

But he said he is skeptical that it will be the primary way to close the nation’s vast funding gap: “I don’t think it’s the Promised Land that’s going solve all our problems.”

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