Many people consider RFID technology to be a substantial threat to privacy and liberty, especially if
it appears that remotely-readable RF tags will be incorporated into
a National ID Card, passport or
some other form of mandatory identification — an ID card that you will be
required to present when opening a bank account, entering a federal building, or
buying an airplane ticket.
I'm a little surprised that the people who are so vocal
about domestic surveillance haven't
said much about this issue.
There are thousands of Texas motorists who have already unwittingly opened the door to government
surveillance by participating in TollTag, TxTag, or EZ Pass, programs that allow the use
of toll roads and airport parking garages without having to stop and deposit coins at a toll booth.
Each participating motorist attaches an RFID tag to his or her car's windshield, and a device at the
toll booth detects the card as the motorist zooms unimpeded through the toll plaza.
In other areas of the country, similar programs have names like SunPass, Cruise Card, EXpressToll,
Fast Lane, Fastrak, K-Tag, MnPass, PalmettoPass, Pikepass, Smart Tag, I-Pass — and the
best name for such a device — eGo.
A serious problem, from the standpoint of privacy protection, is that not all of the RFID tag readers
are on toll roads. In Dallas, TollTags can be used to pay for parking at Dallas Love Field and
DFW International Airport.* In
Houston, plans are under development to allow the use of EZ TAGs at both Hobby and Bush
The Dallas North Tollway was the first toll road in the world to use electronic toll collection when the technology became available
A newer variation called TxTag allows access to toll roads throughout
So the major airports have RFID tag readers, along with the tollways, as a matter of
convenience. But there is no reason that TollTag readers could not be placed at other points all over
the state. This would make it easier to locate a stolen car, for example, if it had an RFID tag.
More recently, a more mysterious development has taken shape: these square white modules have
appeared on TXDOT poles along the freeways in the Dallas area. They are usually mounted on the same
poles as the traffic surveillance cameras, but in some locations they stand alone.
This mysterious roadside antenna is on Spur 408 in
southwest Dallas. The writer knows an antenna when he sees one, and the peculiar thing about this one
is that it is tilted downward, about 20°, toward the traffic.
This specimen is located
at 32°41'52.0" N., 96°56'10.1" W.
An inquiry to the Texas Department of Transportation produced this reply:
units are Smart Sensors manufactured by Wavetronix. The Smart
Sensor is a digital wave radar used for vehicle detection. The Smart
Sensor measures vehicle volume, occupancy, speed and classification.
The information gathered is NOT used for law enforcement purposes. We
use the information to generate the speed map shown on our web site and
to generate the travel times displayed on the dynamic message signs on
That's interesting. The system is sensitive enough to measure occupancy of
each passing vehicle? Even more interesting is the claim that the information is
not used for law enforcement purposes. Why not? If their system shows a steady stream of
people driving at 90 mph on the freeway, or driving on the shoulders at 60 mph, isn't TXDOT
obligated to notify the police?
Today I got an informative email from a reader who clarified the use of the word "occupancy" in TXDOT's
explanation above. The term refers to the percentage of time that each of the lanes on the highway
is occupied — the traffic density, in other words, not the number of people in each passing
car. Obviously I had overestimated the power of this system.
a 10.525 GHz Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW)
Information about vehicle movements is collected and stored. To some extent, it is necessary to retain
this information in the event of a billing dispute. But there's no way to know whether the data is
retained, archived, or sold to the highest bidder, or whether the information is shared with other government
agencies in real time.
If the SmartSensor devices are accompanied by TollTag readers, and (someday soon) they could easily be, the
technology is in place to track the movements (and speed) of people all over town, not just on the toll
roads. This could be a good thing — for example, if the police are looking for a
stolen car — or it could be very bad, depending on Big Brother's use of the information.
Yes, but what if you don't have a TollTag on your car? Can you travel anonymously and blend
in with the crowd, without being electronically followed? No, because the state is using
license plate readers as well.
Car tag scanners would track Tybee,
Ga., tourists. City officials on Tybee Island want to know more about the tourists who visit Georgia's largest public beach,
and they plan to spend nearly $29,000 on a pair of computer-linked cameras designed to read and record the license plate of every car and
truck that comes and goes on the island. But the officials in this town may have inadvertently thrust it into a national privacy debate
by approving the use of scanners to track cars entering and leaving their community.
Will Government Be Able to Remotely
Control Your Car? In May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published its "Preliminary Statement of Policy Concerning
Automated Vehicles." It pointed to a "continuum" of automobile development that "runs from vehicles with no active control systems all the way to
full automation and self-driving." [...] But, if the driver does not control the vehicle, who does?
TxDOT to hijack I-35: Proposes tolls on new
and existing lanes. TxDOT is proposing to add two elevated toll lanes on Interstate 35 each direction from Loop 410 in Bexar
County to Schertz in Comal County, approximately 15 miles. The insanity doesn't stop there. Transportation Commission Chairman
Ted Houghton, self-proclaimed as 'the most arrogant commissioner of the most arrogant state agency in the state of Texas,' announced at this week's
commission hearing that it wants to convert ALL existing free lanes on I-35 through Austin into toll lanes, and turn the failing State
Highway 130 tollway into a freeway.
Toll plaza glitch stymies
motorists at DFW Airport. Motorists who had trouble leaving Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Monday were forced to
wait in line while workers lifted exit gates by hand at its toll plaza on the north side. According to DFW Airport spokeswoman Cynthia
Vega, the system was failing to identify every Toll Tag. In some instances, the system read the tag as a vehicle entered the airport,
but problems popped up upon departure. "We also noticed some people were able to come in, but when they went to leave, that reader
was not picking up their Toll Tag," Vega said.
Debt Issues Tied to SH 130 Could Impact
Toll Projects. A year ago this week, a toll road opened in Central Texas that represented two milestones for the state. While
its posted 85 mph speed limit — the highest in the country — drew international headlines, many state and local leaders
were more interested in the road’s unique financing: A private consortium designed and built the road and agreed to operate and maintain it
for 50 years in exchange for a cut of the toll revenue. [...] But SH 130 has not been the immediate success story its backers had hoped.
We don't need a toll road; we need overpasses on 281! Ten miles on 1604 West are
being expanded non-toll, with 5 overpasses for $200 million or $20 million/mile ($20 million was taken from 281 to complete
this project on 1604). Yet according to the MPO plan adopted in 2012, TxDOT and local leaders want to charge taxpayers $440 million
for a 7.3-mile expansion of 281. One of the things driving up the cost is the 9 overpasses
planned on 281. It's overkill — 9 overpasses in less than 8 miles!
ticketed for FasTrak transponder on dashboard. My wife was on Interstate 680 recently.
She decided to use the carpool lane, so she took her FasTrak transponder from the center console and placed it
on her dashboard. A Highway Patrol officer gave her a ticket because the transponder was not attached
to the windshield.
The Editor says...
This proves that toll collection is not the purpose of the RFID device. It must be attached to the
car, not just in the car, because the purpose of the system is tracking specific cars.
121's new lanes to open in July, sans toll collection. Once collections begin, [Texas
State Highway] 121 will be the first toll road in the nation without tollbooths. Motorists will be able
to use their North Texas Tollway Authority TollTag in addition to the transportation agency's TxTag stickers
and the Harris County Toll Road Authority's EZ TAG. People who don't have toll
tags, though, won't have to stop at a booth. Instead, video cameras will capture their license plate
number and send them a bill, though that will cost about 33 percent more than toll tag users will have
Considers Putting RFID Tags in All Cars. New inspection stickers will "contain
a tamper-resistant transponder, and at a minimum, be capable of storing: (1) the
transponder's unique identification number; and (2) the make, model, and vehicle identification
number of the vehicle to which the certificate is affixed."
The Editor states the obvious:
This would render Toll Tags obsolete. It would also make it fairly simple to locate a stolen
car, and might be an easy way to enforce the speed limits on the open highway. For example, if your
car is detected in Dallas at noon and in Houston at 2:30 p.m., you were obviously
speeding on I-45.
Added 6/28/2012: A more likely scenario
is a trip from Dallas to Houston starting at midnight, not noon. Presumably the state would rely on a series of documented
sightings along the way (with accurate time stamps); otherwise, one mis-identified tag in Houston could get you in trouble,
even if you never really left Dallas.
The link immediately above is no longer valid. Try this one:
Texas Bill Would Require Transponders in All Cars. A bill introduced in the
Texas House of Representatives by Larry Phillips, Vice-Chairman of the Transportation Committee, would require electronic transponders to be
built-into state automobile inspection stickers.
Electronic Vehicle Registration Picks Up
Speed. In South Africa, at least 500,000 RFID tags are now being affixed to metal license plates
to automatically identify vehicles and verify they are properly registered. Within the next two years,
10 million cars in that country are expected to sport electronic license plates. In Bermuda,
meanwhile, more than half of the island nation's cars and trucks currently have RFID-enabled registration
stickers attached to their windshields, and all of its trucks and cars — nearly 25,000 — are
expected to have them by June of this year. Other countries — including Brazil, China,
Dubai, India and Mexico — have either already begun implementing or are currently eyeing
RFID-enabled vehicle identification and registration systems.
400 To Upgrade Cruise Card eGo Tags. Georgia's State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA), which
operates the GA 400 toll road in Atlanta, will be the first toll facility within the continental United
States to upgrade their radio frequency identification (RFID) toll collection technology to TransCore's
paper-thin eGo® tags, a lower-cost, battery-less windshield sticker tag. Almost a million eGo tags
are already deployed in transportation applications, including toll roads in Puerto Rico and Brazil.
selects TransCore RFID for tracking and tolling throughout Texas. The Texas
Department of Transportation (TXDOT) selects TransCore's eGo® Plus radio frequency
identification technology for use in the area's Central Texas Turnpike Program, a $2 billion
transportation initiative. The multimillion-dollar contract allows for the initial
release of 500,000 eGo Plus tags, branded locally as TxTag, with a total of 2 million
tags over two years. The Central Texas Turnpike Program was designed to increase mobility
by adding capacity and reducing congestion in the region.
Trusted traveler toll road system means
the government will decide if and where you travel.
Superhighway RFID Card For US Citizens. US citizens will be forced to adopt a de facto
national identification card and have their freedom of mobility defined by behavioural fielty to the
government under proposals set to derive from NAFTA superhighway toll road systems and the implementation of
the American Union. Existing toll road systems operational at US borders such as SENTRI/NEXUS and the
FAST program mandate that passing vehicles are enrolled in RFID passive tracking and identification programs
linked to central databases.
someone mention the NAFTA Superhighway?
needs to play fare: Tolls for all or no one. So now the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is
thinking about setting up something called "open-road tolling," which means that instead of robbing you at
tollbooths, they would record every driver's license-plate number and then rob them with monthly bills.
This raises a couple of interesting questions.
Highway Tolls Key to New Jersey Debt, Spending
Reform Plan. In his January State of the State address, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) unveiled
a long-awaited plan to capture the value of the state's toll roads. The state would receive approximately
$38 billion in cash financed by the sale of bonds backed by toll increases. According to the plan,
the cash would be used to significantly pay down New Jersey's $32 billion bonded indebtedness and finance
RFID: A Brief Technology
Analysis. Radio frequency identification (RFID) systems have been deployed in limited numbers for
years. Two of the most predominant have been in the form of toll road collection transponders and security
badges. Toll road authorities around the country have equipped drivers with a transponder that is connected
to their credit card. This allows them to pay their tolls at 40 miles-per-hour rather than stopping to
throw quarters into a basket and slow the flow of traffic.
Skymeter: Skymeter's satellite data aggregation and
price matching takes all of the pain out of getting a GPS billing feed [which] can be used for Road Use Charging, Pay as
you go Insurance, Parking, and any application requiring payment for vehicle use.
RFid Center General Newsletter 09/02/2006: The roadway, known as the "Golden Corridor" is the
first in the country to install all-video toll collection. Using license plate information photographed
by cameras, money will be deducted from customer accounts. Those without toll accounts will have bills
sent to their address, based on information from their license plates.
eye to scan for Newton parking lapses. Automatic license plate recognition — a kind of RoboCop
of the parking world that uses a panoramic video camera, laptop computer, and sophisticated software — detects
cars that have been parked too long and sounds an alert to write a ticket. The city bought three systems
for $50,000 and plans to install them in parking enforcement vehicles this month.
Police partner with
license plate readers. A growing number of police departments are turning to mobile camera systems
to fight motor vehicle theft and identify unregistered cars. The cameras read license plates of parked
and moving cars — hundreds per minute — and check them against vehicle databases, said
Lance Clem, a spokesman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which purchased several systems for its
police vehicles last fall.
This license plate-scanning technology has been around for a few years already, and is in use on side streets
as well as freeways. The following commentary was written in 2004:
License Plate "Guns"
and Privacy: New Haven police have a new law enforcement tool: a license-plate
scanner. Similar to a radar gun, it reads the license plates of moving or parked cars and links
with remote police databases, immediately providing information about the car and owner. Right
now the police check if there are any taxes owed on the car, if the car or license plate is
stolen, and if the car is unregistered or uninsured. A car that comes up positive is towed.
Lawyer: Cop scanner
'crosses line'. Civil libertarians are raising the alarm over the state's plans to create
a Big Brother database that could map drivers' whereabouts with police cruiser-mounted scanners that
capture thousands of license plates per hour — storing that information indefinitely where
local cops, staties, feds and prosecutors could access it as they choose.
petrol stations will automatically stop uninsured cars being filled with fuel. Cameras at petrol
stations will automatically stop uninsured or untaxed vehicles from being filled with fuel, under new government
plans. Downing Street officials hope the hi-tech system will crack down on the 1.4 million motorists
who drive without insurance. Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras are already fitted in
thousands of petrol station forecourts.
Oklahoma Robo Cop Alert!
It's called ALPR-Automatic License Plate Reader, and these things are all the rage. ALPRs are not ordinary cameras. Attached to
police cruisers, or fixed on telephone poles or other stationary places, the cameras snap an image of nearly every license plate they
encounter. The device produces a file for each image captured, which includes searchable text displaying the time, date and GPS
location of the car when and where the plate was 'read'. This information is fed into a database, where it can be shared with
other agencies and databases, and "mined" or analyzed.
It's not about public safety. It's all about raising money for the state government.
Oklahoma HB 2525.
HB 2525 will allow police to pull you over... Not because you are speeding, not because you are driving erratically, but to check
and see if your auto insurance is expired. In fact, it can be the primary reason you are pulled over. ... Plain and simple,
HB 2525 is ripe for abuse and would let the police pull you over for any reason they wanted. All they would have to say
is that they were checking to see if your insurance is current.
A stalker's dream come true.
New Service Allows
People to Text Strangers Using License Plate Number. A new service allows individuals in San Francisco to anonymously send
text messages to strangers through their license tag numbers.
photograph license plates, store data. Little Rock may not be a likely terrorism target or a gang crime hotspot, but the
Arkansas capital has decided to follow the example of high-security cities by expanding electronic surveillance of its streets.
Testing the license plate readers:
Car hits 220 MPH on new Texas highway.
Hennessey Performance, builders of some of the fastest custom cars on the planet, including the 275 mph Venom GT, offered up one
of their 1,200 hp Cadillac coupes to test the cameras fitted to the automated toll system on the brand new SH-130 toll road, which
boasts the highest speed limit in the nation at 85 mph.
License Plates May Go Digital. California drivers may soon come bumper to bumper with the latest
product of the digital age: ad-blaring license plates. State lawmakers are considering a bill allowing
the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles.
East Palo Alto license plate readers will run plates through crime databases. By the new year, the
East Palo Alto Police Department will be using automatic license plate readers to identify law breakers. The
City Council has agreed to pay for the new devices — including two sets of high-speed cameras and
sophisticated computers — with a $37,540 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
City Wants Surveillance Cameras
to Record Every License Plate. Police in North Carolina want to build surveillance cameras that would record every car license that passes
by and run it through the FBI's criminal database, alerting authorities in real time if it finds a match. The system would store license plate
numbers for up to a year to provide authorities with historic data should they want to review the data later. "There is no expectation of privacy
to a license plate number," said John Carey, the police chief in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, since a license plate is a displayed public record.
plate readers: A useful tool for police comes with privacy concerns. Scores of cameras across
[Washington, DC] capture 1,800 images a minute and download the information into a rapidly expanding archive
that can pinpoint people's movements all over town. ... More than 250 cameras in the District and its
suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. But
the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago.
Get Read All Over New York — Not Just At Toll Booths. After spotting a police car with two huge boxes on its trunk —
that turned out to be license-plate-reading cameras — a man in New Jersey became obsessed with the loss of privacy for vehicles on
American roads. The man, who goes by the Internet handle "Puking Monkey," did an analysis of the many ways his car could be tracked and
stumbled upon something rather interesting: his E-ZPass, which he obtained for the purpose of paying tolls, was being used to track his
car in unexpected places, far away from any toll booths.
You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements.
A little noticed surveillance technology, designed to track the movements of every passing driver, is fast proliferating on America's streets.
Automatic license plate readers, mounted on police cars or on objects like road signs and bridges, use small, high-speed cameras to photograph
thousands of plates per minute. The information captured by the readers — including the license plate number, and the date, time,
and location of every scan — is being collected and sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems.
Even the most gung-ho devotee of big government would have to be a little concerned about the potential for
totalitarianism at this point, especially since privacy is not guaranteed. Wholesale monitoring of motorists
on the streets and freeways is legal. The U.S. Supreme Court has said in two cases,
U.S. v. Knotts and U.S. v. Karo, that
Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy when they're driving on a public
commuting to and from where we live and work is not done clandestinely". [Webb v. City of
Shreveport, 371 So. 2d 316, 319 (La. Ct. App.
It is interesting that, at least for now, TollTag users can (and do) drive at speeds considerably in
excess of the posted speed limit, and even though the TollTag system recognizes those drivers as they
enter and exit the highway (and many points along the way), the system is not used to generate speeding
tickets. This, I suspect, is to avoid making the TollTag into an unpopular snitch, and to avoid revealing
that capability before some appointed hour yet to come — perhaps after TollTags are mandatory; or more likely, when
RFID devices are built in to every license plate or inspection sticker, or required as standard equipment on every new car.
Information about vehicle movements is collected and stored, at least for billing purposes. It
is necessary to retain this information for some number of months, to resolve potential billing
disputes. But there's no way to know whether the data is retained, archived, or sold to the
highest bidder, or whether the information is shared with other government agencies in real time. The
need for real-time sharing might arise during an Amber Alert or a manhunt, but when the police get comfortable
with the use of that tool, the tags will probably be used to locate "deadbeat dads" and other petty criminals.
Incidentally, TollTags are vehicle-specific — they can't be shared, even between two cars owned by the
same person.* There are now over 1,000,000 of
these electronic transponders in operation in the North Texas
The use of the TollTag may seem to be sheer luxury, but there are places around Dallas where a vehicle
without such a tag must stop and pay a toll two or three times. This results in a little more
risk, more gas consumption, and more wear and tear on the brakes at every stop. TollTag users
are rewarded with a discounted toll rate as well. If I needed to travel on the North Dallas Tollway
every day, I would probably get a TollTag for my car. But I think I would find a way to wrap the TollTag
in aluminum foil when I wasn't on the tollway. That might not keep Big Brother from following me
around, but there's no reason to make that kind of surveillance any easier.
Other Related Information:
NFC used in GeoToll's smartphone-as-tolltag, and in new Neology windshield tag.
GeoToll's hardware will be a 6C chip with NFC and a special omnidirectional antenna for 902-928 MHz DSRC. Most smartphones now
have NFC so the hardware can be integrated into smartphone operations without any wired connection. The GeoToll hardware (or 'firmware')
will be housed in either a plastic protector/sleeve that fits around the phone, or in a sticker tag.
Neology Introduces Flexible Dual Frequency Electronic Toll Tags. Neology, a
leader in secure high-value Radio Frequency Identification solutions, compliments recently announced dual technology hard case tags with NFC
enabled Electronic Toll Sticker tags. The flexible, windshield mounted sticker tags include the same functional characteristics as the
hard case tags, but offer the advantages of Neology's patented visual security features.
Turnpike 'most profitable' toll road in nation. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority collected $992 million in tolls
last year, making it the most profitable toll road in the nation, according to the toll industry newsletter "Toll Roads News." Second
was the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which collected $781 million in tolls in 2012. The Garden State Parkway was listed sixth on the
list with $402 million in toll revenue collected last year.
Call for Abolishing 'Corruption-Infested' Pennsylvania Turnpike. Pennsylvania has two transportation agencies.
One controls more than 40,000 miles of state roads and 25,000 bridges, and another maintains 545 miles of tolled highway.
The former has seven executives, one for every 5,857 miles of roadway; the latter nine executives, one for every 60 miles of
roadway. For a group of Republican lawmakers, this doesn't add up, especially when one of those agencies was the subject of
a 44-month long grand jury investigation over alleged bid-rigging.
The Myth of the Falling Bridge.
The nation would benefit from reordering its infrastructure priorities — away from new highways, for example, where we are already
overbuilt and usage is falling for the first extended period on record. And we'd do well to take advantage of low interest rates and idle
construction resources to knock out all of our future infrastructure needs. But the idea that the U.S. has an infrastructure crisis?
No. A broad, permanent increase in spending is unwarranted.
Surface Transportation Newsletter #107. [Scroll down]
Frankly, with the rapid emergence of all-electronic tolling, the simplest and fairest way to implement tolling to finance Interstate reconstruction and
modernization is to equip only the on-ramps and off-ramps. That way, customers of the Interstate would pay for exactly the number of miles they
drive — no more and no less. That model was first introduced way back in 1997 on Highway 407ETR near Toronto, and has worked well ever since.
This would be a great way to pioneer mileage-based user fees on America's most important highway system.
Court Rules Motorists Can Be Detained For
Paying By Cash at Toll Booths. The Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals has ruled that private contractors operating toll roads on behalf
of the state have the power to detain and store records on motorists who pay by cash at toll booths — another example of how using cash is
increasingly being treated as a suspicious activity.
Highway Toll Issue Prompts
Hearing by U.S. Senate. Highway toll revenues are increasingly being diverted to pay for projects and other
expenses unrelated to roads, bridges, and tunnels used by motorists who pay the tolls, the nation's largest auto club says.
The diversion of tolls for unrelated projects undermines the "user pays" principle behind transportation tolls and weakens public
support for them, said Chris Plaushin, director of federal relations for AAA, during testimony at a hearing of the federal Highway
Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
California man arrested, accused of duct-taping license plate to
beat GW Bridge tolls. Ashwin Kumar, 28, of Pittburgh, Calif., was charged with theft of services and tampering with public documents,
meaning his license plates, said Al Della Fave, a PAPD spokesman. The cash toll for six-axle vehicles, including tractor trailers, is $78 at
non-E-ZPass users on Pa. Turnpike, a surcharge may lie ahead. The Pennsylvania Turnpike's plan
for all-electronic tolling envisions a 76 percent surcharge for motorists who don't use E-ZPass devices.
That means a trip across Pennsylvania from Ohio to New Jersey that costs $30.17 with E-ZPass would cost $53.10 for
a driver who would be billed by mail. The turnpike is moving to do away with all toll booths and instead
charge drivers as they pass at highway speed under overhead gantries equipped with electronic readers and cameras.
Port Authority unfairly fast-tracked
toll hikes, report says. The Port Authority fast-tracked the approval of multiple toll hikes — the third of which is only
three months away — without giving the public enough notice or input, the investigative arm of Congress said in a report released
Friday [9/13/2013]. The study by the Government Accountability Office backs up critics who complained about the single day of public
hearings in 2011 that preceded a quick vote on the largest toll increase in the agency's history.
nightmare. Virginia is sticking stubbornly by its unpopular decision to convert Interstate 95
into one big toll road. The idea is to double-tax drivers from the North Carolina border all the way up to
Stafford County and then have high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes take over up to Interstate 395. The
commonwealth's residents instinctively know this is a dumb idea.
cameras in your car? E-toll patent hints at Big Brotherish future. Imagine that you couldn't
drive on major highways without agreeing to put a camera in your car — one that could film either
the occupants or the vehicle's surroundings and transmit the images back to a central office for inspection.
You don't have to read George Orwell to conjure up such an ominous surveillance state. You just have to
skim through filings at the U.S. Patent Office. It's hard to imagine Americans would tolerate such a
direct, Big-Brotherish intrusion. But they might not notice if the all-seeing cameras were tucked inside
another kind of government tracking technology that millions of Americans have already invited into their cars.
This Toll Tolls for You. Virginia's
17.5 cent a gallon gas tax has not been raised since the mid-1980's and prospects for an increase in this
century are dim even though a gas tax is a reasonable pay-as-you-go user fee on highways. Morally superior
types who operate granola-burning vehicles or only drive two days per week — to allow their electric vehicles
time to recharge — will hardly pay anything at all. While modern day road warriors will pay their fair
share. Unfortunately drivers are deadlocked between Republicans who won't raise taxes a penny and
Democrats who won't cut spending by a penny.
City Expressway cracking down on toll cheats. The South Jersey Transportation Authority, which
operates the highway, tells The Press of Atlantic City the agency uses license plate photos to track down
Not so HOT lanes.
Virginia is trying to pull a fast one on motorists who live along the Interstate 95/395 corridor, and we all
will be moving slower and paying more as a result. By summer's end, the Virginia Department of
Transportation (VDOT) hopes to close on a second financial deal for a high-occupancy toll road, known as HOT
lanes. The latest plan effectively hands ownership of Interstate 95/395 to a foreign corporation for
the next 80 years.
are no sweat for tollway workers. More than 1,400 employees of the Illinois Tollway, nearly 90 percent
of the agency's work force, get a little-known bonus: toll-free traveling to and from their jobs. And 55 of
the agency's top executives and "critical" officials get another fringe benefit: free round-the-clock use of a
tollway-owned vehicle for commuting and work-related activities.
The trouble with tolls:
A toll-road project in San Diego, once held up as a model of the "innovative" public-private partnerships, collapsed
last week. The South Bay Expressway filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after being open for
business less than three years.
New Toll Lanes Allow Drivers Pay to
Avoid Congestion. Transportation agencies are increasingly looking to reduce congestion and make more use
of sometimes under-utilized high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Some are developing plans to allow vehicles that
don't have the required number of passengers to use the lanes if they are willing to pay.
$700 million eyed for toll projects. The
Texas Department of Transportation has set aside more than $700 million in economic stimulus funds for toll road
projects across the state, sparking criticism and questions about whether the pay-to-drive roads are an appropriate
use of the federal dollars.
adding more cop car cameras. The city [of Temecula, Califoria] has invested more money in a
camera system for Temecula police cars that law enforcement authorities credit with boosting the number of
stolen vehicles recovered by the Police Department. The system, which links cameras positioned on a
patrol car like a three-eyed sentry to a database, works by matching captured images of vehicle license
plates with a registry of plates linked to wanted vehicles.
Texas Cities Could Restrict Car Traffic.
How the city ordinance would work: Companies with 100 employees or more would be asked to commit to reducing their
employees' single-occupancy vehicle trips by anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent. Employers would be
expected to provide incentives to encourage employees either to use mass transit, car pool or walk or bike to work, or
work from home or compress the work week when major improvements or new construction is planned or under way.
Toll road cameras looking beyond scofflaw
drivers. Harris County Toll Road Authority cameras are now on the lookout for more than just those
drivers who blow through EZ Tag lanes without paying. County authorities promise new, upgraded cameras
can help catch murderers and other violent criminals. The cameras have the capability to search their databases and
issue alerts to county dispatchers when a wanted criminal crosses their lenses. ... The system, which has been operating
for about a month, has proved so promising that the Houston Police Department wants a piece of the action.
Brother? — Area cameras would record all license plates. If recent grant applications win approval, all
vehicles traveling on certain local traffic arteries would have their license plates automatically recorded and checked
against a U.S. criminal records database. A surveillance system would run every plate number through the National
Crime Information Center, a computerized index maintained by the FBI. If the number matches someone with an
outstanding warrant, or a criminal record, or perhaps just a person of interest in a local investigation, police
would be alerted.
For Whom the Booth Tolls. Angry lawyers and privacy
advocates argued that the Smart Tag system could be used against customers by law enforcement. The Virginia Department
of Transportation promised in several public statements that the system would be used only for toll collection purposes.
That promise turned out to be a lie. Recent court actions forced the state to reveal that the Smart Tag system had been
used by law enforcement for surveillance.
Prospect of Variable Toll Collection on the Obama Highway. Laura Elizabeth Morales has
humorously suggested that if there is to be a highway named after Mr. Obama, it should be a toll
road. (I would suggest perhaps a toll road that runs headlong into an inescapable abyss, a black hole,
or an enormous pit of quicksand.) Ms. Morales further suggested that the toll should "increase with a
driver's income." That's an amusing quip, but upon further consideration, such a system is
Road Tolls Hacked: Hacking the FasTrak
wireless transponders. A researcher claims that toll transponders can be cloned, allowing
drivers to pass for free.
No Place to Hide. Government agencies have been
collecting tolls forever at bridges, some highways, and on ferries. Until the early 1990s, the vast majority accepted
only coins and currency. The point was to collect money. Now the role of tollbooths is evolving. More and
more, they're also becoming a matter-of-fact part of a security and law enforcement infrastructure as digital checkpoints.
Cameras are often pointed at drivers' faces and their license plates. When drivers use an electronic transponder such
as E-ZPass to automatically pay the tolls, they're also handing over information about themselves.
one set of laws for us, and another set of laws for them.
Special license plates
shield officials from traffic tickets. It's 1:45 p.m. on a Wednesday in February and a Toyota Camry is
driving west on the 91 Express Lanes, for free, for the 470th time. The electronic transponder on the
dashboard — used to bill tollway users — is inactive. The Camry's owners, airport traffic
officer Rudolph Duplessis and his wife, Loretta, have never had a toll road account, officials say. They've never
received a violation notice in the mail, either. Their car is registered as part of a state program which hides
their home address on Department of Motor Vehicles records. The agency that operates the tollway does not have
legal access to their address.
It's the law: Washington state lawmakers
don't get speeding tickets. A spokesman for WSP says Washington lawmakers are constitutionally protected from receiving noncriminal traffic tickets
during a legislative session, as well as 15 days before.
Illinois deploys Captain Tollway. Illinois Tollway has
rolled out a goofy looking icon-figure they're dubbing Captain Tollway. Musclebound, in some kind of boxing attire
plus cape in a Superman allusion, the Captain is supposed to help instruct motorists on profound stuff like planning your
summer journey by checking on road conditions, the location of service plazas and the standing of your transponder account
before setting off.
US Court rejects TransCore complaint against ETC on open road
tolling. US District Court in Dallas has dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit by TransCore against ETC
alleging infringement of open road tolling patents in the E-ZPass area. TransCore alleged in their suit that ETC
improperly used methodologies they owned through patents for open road tolling with the IAG's Mark IV transponders and
readers. The case arose when ETC gained the contract to convert some 20 mainline toll plazas on the Illinois Tollway
system to open road tolling in mid-2005. TransCore maintained that ETC should have negotiated a license agreement
Apparently ETC means Electronic Transaction Consultants.
Wholesale Automobile Surveillance Comes to New York City.
New York is installing an automatic toll-collection system for cars in the busiest parts of the city. It's called
congestion pricing, and it promises to reduce both traffic and pollution. The problem is that it keeps an audit log
of which cars are driving where. London's congestion pricing system is already being used for counterterrorism
purposes — and now for regular crime as well. The E-Z Pass automatic toll collection system, used in New York
and other places, has been used in both criminal and civil trials: in one case to prove infidelity in divorce court.
Electronic Toll Collection and Violation Enforcement.
Whether created by a legislature or an agency, any toll enforcement and data system in the United States operates under two
primary constitutional and statutory restraints: (1) the separation and limitations of executive, legislative, and judicial
powers under federal and state constitutions and (2) the preservation of individual liberty and due process rights.
Electronic Toll Readers & Traffic Surveillance
Cameras. Electronic toll readers, such as the EZ Pass system, gather account information about drivers who use
In fact, most people do not know that electronic tolling is only a small part of a much larger Department of
Transportation Intelligent Transport System. The EZ Pass technology can be used not only for toll collection, but
for automated vehicle registration and identification.
Separate fast lane for
rich — bridge toll plan. A former NSW transport chief wants to sell spare capacity
in a Sydney Harbour Bridge bus lane to wealthy drivers in a hurry. Former Roads and Traffic Authority
director Ken Dobinson has proposed opening the bridge's southbound bus lane to drivers who would pay a special
staggered toll of $5, $10 or as much as $20 for a faster crossing, Fairfax reports today. The rate would
go up as more regular cars joined the flow of buses and taxis.
Efkon Announces HOT Technology for
Electronic Tolling. Some tolling agencies have begun converting high-occupancy vehicle (HOV)
lanes into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. HOT lanes allow multiple-occupancy vehicles free access
during off-peak times of the day, while charging all vehicles during peak-usage hours to maximize traffic
flow and encourage ride sharing.
The real toll is your privacy.
In the 12 states in the Northeast and Midwest that are part of a regional turnpike authority, if the traveler
uses what is termed an "E-Z Pass," the state highway authorities have a far more robust record of the
motorists' driving histories. The governments in those states would have a record of the dates and times
the motorist entered and exited the toll road, as well as the speed at which they drove (easily calculated
based on distance traveled and entry and exit times).
Toll data nabs unfaithful
spouses. Adulterers, beware: Your cheatin' heart might be exposed
EZ-pass evidence and the law: A
woman accused of killing her husband was convicted after New Jersey prosecutors reconstructed her movements.
Examining E-ZPass records, investigators pieced together the driving route of a missing Baltimore federal
prosecutor who later turned up dead. Prosecutors in a New York City murder trial discredited a
The Fourth Amendment and the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy:
How does one establish whether, in a given instance, one's expectation of privacy is "reasonable"? The
criteria are as follows: 1) general legal principles; 2) the vantage point from which the
surveillance is carried out; 3) the degree of privacy afforded by certain buildings and/or places; and
4) the sophistication and invasiveness of the surveillance technology employed.
makers of our Constitution … conferred, as against the government, the
right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most
valued by civilized men. To protect, that right, every unjustifiable intrusion
by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed,
must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment."
German rubbish piles up due to due to toll-system
problems. After a shaky and expensive start, it seems as if the automatic toll-collection system
for trucks on the German Autobahn (freeway or turnpike, depending on if you are a car or a truck) is more or
less working. Unless you happen to be the Ferdinand M?nnich Waste Disposal company in Lippstadt.
Our local newspaper, the Neue Westfalische Zeitung, reported on the 10 July 2007 that their truck fleet
was immobilised, pretty much from one second to the next, as the newspaper put it, at about 10 am on
19 March. At that point, the company received phone calls from six of its drivers who were
somewhere in Germany on the Autobahn. Their on-board toll machines were turned off, because the
company's credit limit was exceeded.
RFID in British License Plates.
The British government is testing a scheme to put active — the kind that are independently powered —
RFID chips in automobile license plates. They can be read at least 300 feet away, and probably much,
enthusiasts can hit the road. If Pennsylvanians want to charge tolls on the roads they built
with their own money, such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, that's none of my business. But I-80 was built
with my tax dollars under a program begun by the esteemed Republican president Dwight Eisenhower. Now
this Democrat [Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell] wants to use the road as a cash cow.
Toll lanes on
fast-track as planners plot L.A. freeway demise. Transportation planners are moving quickly to
take the "free" out of Los Angeles freeways. Toll lanes on three freeways during morning and evening
commuter rush hours could become reality by spring 2009 if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority gets
a $648 million federal grant.
Brother is keeping tabs on satnav motorists. A secret 'Big Brother' operation is allowing
officials to pinpoint the exact location of thousands of vehicles with satellite navigation systems. The
controversial scheme is built into the small print of a contract between the Department for Transport and the
satnav company Trafficmaster. Currently the 'spy in the sky' system is limited to some 50,000 drivers
who have Trafficmaster's Smartnav system.
GPS helps cities catch goof-offs.
GPS tracking devices installed on government-issue vehicles are helping communities around the country reduce
waste and abuse, in part by catching employees shopping, working out at the gym or otherwise loafing while on
the clock. The use of GPS has led to firings, stoking complaints from employees and unions that the
devices are intrusive, Big Brother technology. But city officials say that monitoring employees'
movements has deterred abuses, saving the taxpayers money in gasoline and lost productivity.
Driver Blames GPS System For Car-Train Collision.
On the evening of 10 Nov 2008, a man's car got stuck on the Metro-North tracks in Bedford Hills, N.Y. in
Westchester County because he said his GPS told him to make an immediate right turn. ... Metro-North
spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said, "You don't turn onto train tracks. Even if there are little
voices in your head telling you to do so. If the GPS told you to drive off a cliff, would you
drive off a cliff?"
Drivers to see major
toll hikes. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the New Jersey Turnpike, the nation's
toll booths are getting dramatically more expensive to drive through.
Big toll hikes are
planned for most of the nation's signature toll roads, bridges and tunnels. The increases
would add dollars, not cents, to the cost of passing through many toll booths.
Toll lanes set for freeways by 2010's end. Days
of free and open roads are dimming in Los Angeles after the federal government offered $213.6 million to launch a
one-year toll road pilot program by the end of 2010 in an effort to boost speeds on three sluggish freeways.
lanes are designed to enforce congestion pricing, a strategy that aims to make driving freeways more expensive during peak
traffic times so noncommuters will stay off the roads during rush hours.
Congestion problems are solved! Matthew
was the main author of the Puget Sound Regional Council study that stumbled on the solution to
all our traffic issues. Ready? Tolls. Tolls on every freeway. Tolls on just about every
major arterial, just about everywhere. It's genius. Simply put an end to congestion by making it
too expensive for people to drive!
plate recognition tools led to abduction arrest. The swift arrest of a San Jose
man in the abduction of a 12-year-old girl this week was aided by an eye-opening gadget that
can scan the license plates of a street full of cars and instantly alert police to which vehicles
have been reported stolen. It was a breakthrough moment for license plate recognition, a
technology that is spreading to law enforcement around the Bay Area — and is
prompting privacy concerns.
Texas Turnpike now NTTA recognized as pioneer in transponder tolling
History. [RFID] tags were sufficiently developed to be adopted in the closed environment of freight
railroads by the mid-1980s but they always foresaw the main application being in eliminating the need for cash handling on
tollroads. Jerry Landt, the only one of the original five pioneers still at TransCore — he is chief
scientist — recalls that the only way they could get transponders adopted by a toll authority was to offer
the first one a no-risk/no-investment deal.
Stopping cars with microwaves:
The system, which can be attached to an automobile or aircraft carrier, sends out pulses of microwave
radiation to disable the microprocessors that control the central engine functions in a car. Such
a device could be used by law enforcement to stop fleeing and noncooperative vehicles at security
checkpoints, or as perimeter protection for military bases, communication centers, and oil platforms
in the open seas.
equipment double-billed 50,000 times. A glitch in the equipment on three Austin roads
has caused about 50,000 double-billings since charges began in January, Texas Department of
Transportation officials said Monday [10/8/2007]. The problem has occurred one of every
600 times a car passed one of the roads' tolling points.
[For some informative commentary on the story above,
French speed camera saboteurs
demand ransom to halt attacks. French anti-terrorist police are hunting a "guerrilla" organisation
that is blowing up speed cameras and demanding a ransom from the State.
The Editor says...
I wouldn't recommend such violence in this country. If you like explosives so much, join the Army.
Fast and Safe. New Zealand traffic management has been
controlled by our one-eyed Land Transport Safety Authority — claiming to be focused solely on safety
but in practice captured by the police and other suppliers of enforcement services and equipment. The LTSA
celebrated lowering average speeds and removing flexibility by making all traffic travel at the same speed —
usually at the lowest common denominator. It continually increased costs for travelers both indirectly through
time-wasting and directly through charges and fines.
Bureaucracies don't care about costs, value,
efficiency or freedoms. They seek control and power.
traffic jam recreated for first time. Traffic that grinds to a halt and then restarts for no apparent
reason is one of the biggest causes of frustration for drivers. Now a team of Japanese researchers has
recreated the phenomenon on a test-track for the first time. The mathematical theory behind these so-called
"shockwave" jams was developed more than 15 years ago using models that show jams appear from nowhere on
roads carrying their maximum capacity of free-flowing traffic — typically triggered by a single
driver slowing down.
Toll Road Checkpoints to Deal
With Dissenters. Tony Blair's toll road surveillance and taxation grid is to be enforced by a new
cadre of jackbooted inspectors who will be given powers to stop and search vehicles where owners are suspected
to have removed their tracking tags. Arguing with the officials will be punishable by a 6 month
prison sentence, according to a leaked government memo.
Nissan GT-R sports car recognizes racetrack
coordinates. The onboard navigation system watches your speed via GPS and recognizes popular
racetrack locations. You must scroll through a series of menus and agree to disable the 180 kph
(111 mph) speed limiter. Then after thrashing it on the track, you must take it for a $1000 Nissan
High Performance Center safety check or the warranty is void.
Taking a toll on the people. Once I
escaped — and, yes, it really does feel like an escape — the bounds of northeastern
road-policy cruelty, well
ah. I'd just have to get beyond the $6.45 New Jersey Turnpike toll (which
NJ's "Governor" Corzine aims to raise precipitously), $3.00 Delaware Memorial Bridge toll, $4.00 Delaware
Turnpike toll (35.7 cents per mile), and it was smooth sailing. Oh, I know I may be forgetting a toll,
and I should also mention that on the return trip I could look forward to the $5.00 John F. Kennedy
Memorial Highway toll and $6.00 GWB fleecing.
10 Mass Pike collectors charged with toll theft.
The AP is reporting that Massachusetts state police are charging ten current and former toll collectors of the
Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with theft of tolls. A Suffolk District Attorney is quoted as saying
that the charges are the result of a seven month long investigation. The toll collectors were
between $20 and $150 per shift.
TxDOT gives up on toll financing for Trans Texas Corridor
69. In a further retreat before anti-road activists and a hostile legislature Texas Department
of Transportation (TxDOT) has abandoned Trans Texas Corridor 69, acknowledged there will be no significant
toll financing, and abandoned consideration of any new routing. Only existing surface arterial roads
will be upgraded. TxDOT is increasingly dropping use of the prefix TTC (Trans Texas Corridor) and
using the term I-69 for the road, though much of the road will never meet interstate standards.
NTTA bumps up prices at
Wycliff main plaza. The NTTA says TollTag customers, who were paying 60 cents at Wycliff,
will be paying 70 cents at the same main gantry. In addition, ZipCash customers will be paying
$1, a 25-cent increase from the 75 cents they were paying before completion of the project.
The Editor says...
In other words, the toll for the same trip that used to cost 25 cents (then 50, then 75) will increase to one dollar,
starting October 1, 2008. This increase comes after the NTTA automated the attendants out
of their jobs and started offering incentives to use a TollTag. Incidentally, for those of you
visiting this web site from elsewhere in the country, the Wycliff toll plaza is the first stop on the
Dallas North Tollway as you go north from downtown Dallas. If you just go from downtown to the
Wycliff exit, the toll is not too much. The one-dollar fare will get you about ten miles — up to
The Turnpike Tolls. Tolls are appropriate because they are imposed directly upon travelers for their
use of roads. However, the plan to toll I-80 represents more than a toll. It is also a tax on drivers
because more than $160 million in toll dollars from the highway will be funneled to mass transit systems, primarily
in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Taxing drivers in the northern tier to subsidize mass transit users in the
southeast and southwest is bad public policy.
One day it's free, and the next day it's a toll road.
will change to toll lanes on I-77. The state [of North Carolina] plans to convert Interstate 77's
high-occupancy vehicle lanes into toll lanes and extend them to Exit 28 in Cornelius, the chairman of
the Lake Norman Transportation Commission announced Wednesday night [5/11/2011].
new tolls take effect on New Jersey-New York roadways. $12 for a ticket to New York City!
But there's a catch: the fare is for drivers entering Gotham via bridges and tunnels from New Jersey,
and it's the wallet-busting toll that replaced the $8 fare over the weekend ... The new toll affects two tunnels
and four bridges: Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, George Washington Bridge, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne
Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing.
commuters brace for 50 percent increases. Beginning at 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, the average
passenger vehicle toll will rise from $2.20 to $3.30 on the Turnpike and 70 cents to $1.05 on the Parkway.
The average truck toll will increase from $7.95 to $12.15 on the Turnpike and $1.40 to $2.15 on the Parkway.
A passenger vehicle trip from Turnpike Exit 14 in Newark to Exit 9 in East Brunswick will jump from
$2.85 to $4.35.
Roads and Double Taxation: The Left and Libertarians Converge. Toll roads are appealing to many on the right, because the fees
don't look like taxes; motorists are charged for the voluntary action of driving on a specific road. Toll roads appear to be run by
private entities, not the government. [...] There are now 5,244 miles of toll roads in the U.S., operating in 35 states.
It is an illusion that toll roads are a free market way to solve a growing government expense. Toll road contracts are set up as
public-private partnerships, which are not the same thing as privatization.
State-owned message boards
The remotely-programmable messages boards seen on some highways are just another distraction.
The estimated travel times displayed on the dynamic message signs are usually shown when traffic is light,
and any local driver could give you the same (or better) estimate. At other times, the "dynamic"
signs are used to display insipid slogans like, "Click it or ticket." They're just another
distraction on the freeway — a colossal waste of money.
The message boards occasionally (rarely) put up information about a wreck or congested area up ahead, but aside from the
"Drive friendly" place-holder messages, they are also used sometimes to publicize Amber Alerts or information about
missing elderly people. This, in my opinion, is not done to generate leads and tips, but is instead being done to
give the impression that the police are in need of input from random citizens who may have seen something the cops missed,
when in reality the police probably have much better sources of information that they'd rather not publicize, such as
license plate readers, toll tag readers, and cell phone triangulation.
But wait... it will get worse. Since we all tolerated the public service announcements without
too much fuss, the next step is obvious:
California mulls ads on road
alert signs. Highway alert signs that warn motorists nationwide of delays and hazards could
start to display a new, potentially distracting feature — advertising. The California
Department of Transportation may become the first state to puts ads on its alert signs along state and
Big Brother won't let you watch television while you drive — unless he owns the
big-screen TV set and profits from the advertisements. The states would never allow a
private company to put billboards directly over the freeways, but if Big Government does it,
who's going to complain?
License Plates May Go Digital. California drivers may soon come bumper to bumper with the
latest product of the digital age: ad-blaring license plates. State lawmakers are considering a
bill allowing the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The
device would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is moving but would switch to digital messages
when it is stopped for more than four seconds in traffic or at a red light.
The Editor says...
Isn't California where all those "urban blight" activists live, who hate to see advertising all over
the landscape? The people who hate to see others stoop to the level of "anything for a buck"?
Apparently it's okay for big government to be so mercenary. It sounds as if the advertising is going to
be on every license plate, and the products or services thus promoted will be chosen by the state. What
if the state decides to advertise something the driver finds repugnant? How will the driver know?
OnStar Tracks Your Car Even When You
Cancel Service. Navigation-and-emergency-services company OnStar is notifying its six million
account holders that it will keep a complete accounting of the speed and location of OnStar-equipped vehicles,
even for drivers who discontinue monthly service. OnStar began e-mailing customers Monday about its
Motors" To Track Drivers With OnStar, Sell Data to Police. The navigation company OnStar is
attracting strong criticism after announcing last week that it would continue to monitor drivers' speeds and
GPS locations — and sell the information to third parties such as law enforcement —
even after customers end their contracts. Outrage ensued and even U.S. lawmakers have now entered the
fray. OnStar is a subsidiary of General Motors, which is still partly owned by the U.S. and Canadian
governments after receiving billions in bailouts.
possible inquiry, OnStar drops 'Big Brother' plans. Facing intense criticism from Capitol Hill and
calls for a government investigation, General Motors' OnStar division has dropped plans that would have allowed
it to track detailed personal driving information about both current and former subscribers. The telematics
subsidiary had advised users that it was changing its terms and conditions to permit it to track a vehicle's
speed, location and other data including whether or not a motorist was wearing a seatbelt.
Investigation of OnStar's 'Brazen' Privacy Invasion. New York's senior senator Charles Schumer
company refrain from monitoring vehicles after customers cancel service. "By tracking drivers even after
they've cancelled their service, OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent
memory," Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday [9/26/2011].
OnStar Begins Spying On Customers’ GPS Location For Profit?
I canceled the OnStar subscription on my new GMC vehicle today after receiving an email from the company about
their new terms and conditions. While most people, I imagine, would hit the delete button when receiving
something as exciting as new terms and conditions, being the nerd sort, I decided to ... read it instead.
I'm glad I did. OnStar's latest T&C has some very unsettling updates to it, which include the ability to
now collect your GPS location information and speed "for any purpose, at any time". They also have
apparently granted themselves the ability to sell this personal information, and other information to third
parties, including law enforcement.
Sci Fi No More: Cars That
Fight Thieves. Say some clown steals your car from the parking lot while you are hard at work.
If it's equipped with General Motors' OnStar service, he could be in for a big surprise and you could get a little
revenge — and even see your car again. Starting with about 20 models for 2009, the service will
be able to slowly halt a car that is reported stolen, and the radio may even speak up and tell the thief
to pull over because police are watching.
The Editor says...
I've read a lot of rumors on the internet about the capabilities of the OnStar system, and
"certain restrictions" that apply when you use the service. Apparently OnStar can do a lot
more than the company wants the customers to know, but for the moment that's all I'm
saying. Well... I'll say this: I would never purchase a car with OnStar
Stalling Cars Via OnStar: A Hacker's Dream Come
True? Ready to turn over the keys of your vehicle to the cops, or that clever hacker in the
next lane? How about that creepy guy following you on a lonely country road? GM apparently plans
to perhaps make this all possible. It's been announced that they'll be equipping nearly two million
of their 2009 model vehicles (that have OnStar installed), with the capability to be remotely shut down to
idle via OnStar commands at the request of law enforcement.
Device can remotely
halt auto chases. Police will be able to remotely halt high-speed pursuits with technology being
unveiled Tuesday that aims to cut chase-related deaths. General Motors (GM) plans to equip 1.7 million
of its 2009 model vehicles with the system that allows pursuing officers to request that engines of stolen
cars be remotely switched off through the OnStar mobile communications system.
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown hits the brakes on jacked cars. Although OnStar has offered Stolen Vehicle
Location Assistance to its subscribers since 1996, the firm is getting set to add a snazzy new enhancement for
2009 vehicles. The feature, dubbed Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, can use GPS to pinpoint a vehicle once it
has been reported as stolen, and after OnStar confirms with local police that it has the vehicle within
sight, it can then be slowed down remotely.
The Editor says...
"Slowed down remotely" means it can be controlled through the use of OnStar's built-in cell
phone. Therefore, this feature is useless if the well-equipped car thief
has jammed the stolen car's cell phone.
OnStar: Big Brother's
Eye in the Sky. OnStar is a telemetry system providing a central data bank with real-time data
on virtually every system in your car, including GPS. OnStar's computer knows where you were, when you
were there, and how fast you went. It knows if and when you applied the brakes, if and when the air bags
deployed, and what speed you were going at the time. It knows if and when your car was serviced.
OnStar operators can determine if you have a passenger in the front seat (airbag detection). All
interactions with OnStar's operators are automatically recorded (hence the commercials). By the same
token, under certain conditions, OnStar can switch on your GM car's microphone remotely and record any and
all sounds within the vehicle (i.e. conversations). But wait, there's more
OnStar to help stop car theft. Message to car
thieves: if you're thinking about stealing a General Motors car or truck in the future, think again.
Doing so could be a one-way ride to jail, thanks to a new technology introduced here this week by GM's OnStar
division. The company is making OnStar standard, with one year's free service, in almost all its models
Car Can Talk. What It Says May Cause Concern.. For [Curt] Dunnam, the more he learned about
his car's security features, the less secure he felt. A research support specialist at Cornell University,
he is concerned about privacy. He has enough technical knowledge to worry that someone
else — say, law enforcement officers, or even hackers — could listen in on his phone
calls, or gain control over his automotive systems without his knowledge or consent. Any
gadget that can track a carjacker, he reasons, can just as readily be used to track him. "While
I don't believe G.M. intentionally designed this system to facilitate Orwellian activities, they sure
have made it easy," he said.
Somebody may be tracking your vehicle and you don't know about it!
Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems
let on-board vehicle computers measure air pressure in the tires.
If you purchased a new vehicle in the last two years, it is very likely that it came with TPMS.
If you live in the Unites States, your next vehicle will contain TPMS whether you like or not — in
April 2005, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rule requiring automakers to install
TPMS sensors in all new passenger cars and trucks starting in September 2007.
Here is where
privacy problems become obvious: Each wheel of the vehicle transmits a unique ID, easily readable
using [an] off-the-shelf receiver. Although the transmitter's power is very low, the signal is
still readable from a fair distance using a good directional antenna.
Court to FBI: No spying on in-car computers.
The FBI and other police agencies may not eavesdrop on conversations inside automobiles equipped with OnStar or
similar dashboard computing systems, a federal appeals court ruled. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said
Tuesday [11/18/2003] that the FBI is not legally entitled to remotely activate the system and secretly use it
to snoop on passengers, because doing so would render it inoperable during an emergency.
Welcome to OnStar. How
May We Invade You? GPS systems in your car or telephone can track the adresses you visit — the
doctor's office, the liquor store, your lover's house. At the moment, the companies that can collect
this data are under no legal obligation to protect your privacy. They may sell a permanent record of
your movements to marketing firms, your employer, your wife, your bitterest enemies.
Boycott All GM Vehicles with OnStar. The purpose of
this website is to encourage you not to purchase any GM vehicle that is equipped with OnStar or any other type
of spyware that you cannot easily remove and disable on your own, without additional cost and without seeing
Big Brother on Board: OnStar Bugging Your Car.
Would it surprise you to find out that the FBI might be able to monitor private conversations in your car? A recent
court case revealed that the FBI used the popular OnStar system to do just that. GM cars equipped with OnStar are
supposed to be the leading edge of safety and technology.
However, buried deep inside the OnStar system is a feature
few suspected — the ability to eavesdrop on unsuspecting motorists.
FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool.
The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely
activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations. The technique is
called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a
New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect
or wiretapping him.
Court to FBI: No spying on in-car computers. The
FBI and other police agencies may not eavesdrop on conversations inside automobiles equipped with OnStar or similar dashboard
computing systems, a federal appeals court ruled. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday [11/18/2003] that the
FBI is not legally entitled to remotely activate the system and secretly use it to snoop on passengers, because doing so
would render it inoperable during an emergency.
The Editor says...
The court made the right decision, but for the wrong reason, placing more value in safety
than either liberty or privacy.
Court limits in-car FBI spying.
An appeals court [in 2003] put the brakes on an FBI surveillance technique that turns an automobile driver's on-board vehicle
navigation system into a covert eavesdropping device, after finding that the spying effectively disables the system's
emergency and roadside assistance features.
OnStar Off. When I purchased a new
vehicle in September 2004, I wanted side impact airbags, but they only were available as part of a "Safe and Secure" package
that also included OnStar which I did not want. A salesman tried to convince me that I was getting a year of OnStar
service "free", but obviously part of the price of the S&S package paid for the OnStar subscription. The emergency
services of OnStar are appealing to me. But the privacy implications are not. Now that my year of "free"
service is over, I have disabled the system by pulling the fuse that powered it.
Living Under Surveillance: Upwards
of 1.5 million automobiles can now be tracked and located anywhere in the United States — or
in fact anywhere on Earth — using OnStar, General Motors' onboard car-to-mobile-phone-network
The Editor says...
Well... it works anywhere there is a clear view of the sky and reliable cellular phone service. Not
quite "anywhere on earth."
Is this where OnStar is headed?
slams speed-curbing trial. [Scroll down] It is linked to a GPS navigation system and
sounds a chime if the car exceeds the limit. It can cut fuel supply to the engine, reducing speed, if
the driver fails to slow down.
It's not just the camera in the laptop.
Of course, we're surrounded by microphones — in cell phones, game consoles, even pens. There
have been cases of government tapping through "unexpected" microphones (the ones in "inactive" OnStar units
of cars). I'm not aware of any reports of private clandestine listening — but I can't
imagine that it isn't taking place.
Event Data Recorders: "Black boxes" in automobiles.
Regulatory Landscape in America — A Morass Of Red Tape. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration on December 13 issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate installation of electronic
data recorders, popularly known as "black boxes," in most light vehicles starting in 2014. The government
mandate understandably spooks privacy advocates.
'Black Box' or 'Spy Box'? US regulators want to make car
data recorders mandatory. [Scroll down] Few of the opponents of the new measure disagree with EDRs as
they are currently, but most say that the new law will pave way for a multitude of uses beyond the original remit.
Problematically, few legal limits on them exist as of now. Only thirteen states have any legislation on EDRs at all.
If the new regulations are passed, they need to establish just what data can be recorded, for how long, who owns it, and if
there will be any sanctions for a driver who blocks his device, or refuses to hand over his data.
The Black Box. Black boxes are used to inform investigators what
went wrong when a plane crashes. [...] Now our government wants them in our cars. According to legislation that has
already passed in the Senate, all cars sold in the United States starting in 2015 will have an "Event Data Recorder" (EDR) as mandatory
equipment. The Event Data Recorder is the black box for cars. This is troubling news to many people, especially those most
concerned about civil liberties and Big Brother.
Feds Propose Tracking Black Boxes in All
New Cars. The Obama administration wants to know where you are at all times. Federal regulators are proposing that new automobiles
sold in the United States after September 2014 come equipped with black boxes, so-called "event data recorders" that chronicle everything from how fast
a vehicle was traveling, the number of passengers and especially a car's location. While many automakers have voluntarily installed the devices
already, the National Transportation Safety Agency wants to hear your comments by February 11 on its proposal mandating them in all vehicles.
Obama Bypasses Congress to Mandate Black Boxes for
All Cars — Beginning in '14. Bypassing Congress, the Obama administration has issued a proposed administrative rule, which if adopted, would
mandate the installation of "black boxes" in all automobiles and light trucks beginning in 2014. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed the regulation on Dec. 7, which it said "would capture valuable safety-related data in the seconds before and during a
motor vehicle crash."
'Black box' standards
coming for cars. New federal standards for "black boxes" that record information leading up to auto accidents will will take effect Sept. 1,
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ruled on Tuesday [8/14/2012]. The decision means the new standards for the devices will not be
delayed by one year, as automakers had requested. The federal standards will apply only to cars that are voluntarily outfitted with event data recorders
(EDRs), also known as black boxes. But while the government does not yet require all cars to have black boxes installed, NHTSA is still thought to be
considering a federal mandate as a next step, possibly this year.
California driver tracking by
insurers sparks privacy debate. California is turning into a battleground for technology that allows auto insurers to track their customers'
driving behavior and offer them lower premiums, but that privacy advocates reject as an excessive intrusion with serious consequences. Insurance
companies are increasingly installing small boxes in clients' cars that monitor everything from how much customers drive[,] to their average speeds[,]
to where they drive.
Fall back, Big Brother.
Americans can be excused for a slight paranoid feeling that someone is following them. Omnipresent
surveillance cameras, especially in Chicago, record our daily movements. If we use our cell phones, we
announce where we are. Our online communications can be monitored or resurrected from the distant past.
Congress is thinking about installing data-gathering "black boxes" in every car. And now two U.S.
senators — Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) — have introduced a bill to
require people to produce identification before buying pre-paid cell phones.
OnStar information at Wikipedia: [Scroll down]
Concerns have also been raised about what could be done with the data collected and stored by a vehicle's
MVEDR, which is analogous to the "black box" recorder on airplanes, although an MVEDR is not as sophisticated
and does not currently function as a digital audio recorder. For example, privacy advocates worry that
auto dealers could use data to suggest that the user engaged in reckless driving and therefore violated the
terms of the vehicle's warranty, or insurance companies could use said data as the basis for denying claims.
backs mandatory vehicle 'black boxes'. General Motors Co. supports legislation to require
so-called "black boxes" in vehicles, to collect crash data, and it is willing to support additional
"reasonable" auto safety legislation. In a roundtable interview with reporters today, GM's new
vice president for government relations, Robert E. Ferguson, said the company backs legislation
in the works from Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, to mandate event data recorders.
insurer spy on driving, get a discount. More auto insurers are rolling out programs offering
discounts to drivers who let the company electronically spy on their driving habits. Progressive, one
of the nation's largest auto insurers, today [3/14/2011] launches a nationwide ad campaign for its "Snapshot" program,
in which drivers can elect to install a small data recorder in their cars that tracks how hard they brake,
how far they drive and whether it's day or night driving.
The feds have the same idea.
Automotive Black Boxes, Minus the Gray
Area. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will later this year propose a requirement
that all new vehicles contain an event data recorder, known more commonly as a "black box." The device,
similar to those found in aircraft, records vehicle inputs and, in the event of a crash, provides a snapshot of
the final moments before impact.
considering 'black boxes' for cars. The Department of Transportation is considering developing a
rule that would require new cars to come equipped with event-data recorders similar to the so-called "black
boxes" that are used to gather information in airplane crashes. The boxes compile information when the
engines of cars are running such as the speed the vehicle is traveling, which can later be useful in
reconstructing what happened in an accident.
Is Big Brother's black box coming to your car?
MAP-21 clearly bears the fingerprints of our nanny-in-chief, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, but it passed the Senate last month by a strong bipartisan
vote, 74 to 22. The massive bill federalizes everything within sight of the feds' roving eye. [...] Perhaps
most troubling, at least for anyone who harbors even the remotest interest in privacy, MAP-21 mandates that within three
years every single passenger vehicle in the country must be outfitted with a "vehicle event data recorder" — the
proverbial "black box."
Big Brother's Next Target: Your Car.
Many are quite concerned about Senate Bill 1813, a massive piece of legislation supposedly devoted to transportation issues. Besides
including a provision allowing the IRS the power to revoke passports belonging to those who are delinquent with tax debt in excess of $50,000, it
appears that the potential law may be used to measure the size of your carbon footprint each time you get behind the wheel.
Bill Would Mandate Black Boxes in Cars, Plus More. [Scroll down] Approximately 85 percent
of vehicles already come equipped with black boxes, notes the NHTSA, whose own guidelines for vehicles include the
devices, even though they are not currently mandatory. According to those guidelines, the boxes must measure
such things as speed, position of the gas pedal, whether or not the brakes were pressed, seat belt usage, and the
amount of time it took for airbags to deploy. In fact, it was a black box that landed Massachusetts Lt. Governor
Timothy Murray with a hefty fine following the 2011 accident that totaled his vehicle, because the device recorded
that he was speeding and was not wearing a seat belt prior to the accident. However, critics contend that the
data box is part of the slippery slope to total surveillance of the transportation habits and whereabouts of Americans.
The Editor says...
The current generation of "black boxes" may only record what happened right before a crash, but there is no way to
predict (the limits of) what future software "upgrades" might include. The black box might be used to show that a vehicle
spends a lot of time idling, or that the driver has a habit of excessive acceleration. The box might also keep track of
your movements and whereabouts. One thing is fairly certain: The evidence in the "black box" will only be available
to the government. You would have a hard time extracting the data if you needed it for a legal defense.
'Your' Car Won't Be After 2015.
First, the EDRs [Event Data Recorders] could be — and almost certainly will be — tied into your
vehicle's GPS. (Most new and late model cars, conveniently, already have this, too.) Then data about your driving
can be transmitted — as well as recorded. To whom? Your insurance company, of course.
Progressive Insurance already has such a system in place — voluntary, for the moment. When EDRs are mandated,
you will no longer have a choice. We'll be told it's all for the sake of (groan) "safety" — just like the old
55 MPH highway speed limit and every radar trap in the country. Of course, it's really for the sake of revenue —
the government's and the insurance company's.
Now that OnStar has paved the way, many state governments are considering an odometer tax, whereby you would
be taxed based on the number of miles you drive. Disguised as an effort to "save the earth"
from global warming, this would be yet
another tax, which you would have to pay with money from your paycheck — from which taxes
have already been withheld. This new tax would be objectionable even if the money went to a
justifiable project, such as road and bridge repair. But unfortunately the states will probably
give the money to someone who is too lazy to work.
Taxing Americans By
Miles Driven Is Unfair And Intrusive. Federal and state officials want more money to spend on roads and bridges, and some of them think
they know how to get it. They want to tax us on every mile we drive. They're calling for a "vehicle miles traveled" (VMT) tax because,
[alas], cars and trucks are becoming more fuel-efficient. Drivers are getting more miles for each gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel they buy,
which means fuel tax revenues have not been growing as much as government officials would like. Taxing us on each mile driven would get them
Soviet official behind black box "track & tax" of US drivers. The California bureaucrat behind a big brother plan to track vehicles and
"tax by the mile" worked as a government transportation planner in the former USSR. Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director of the Southern California
Association of Governments (SCAG), who told the Los Angeles Times "This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might
choose to do," worked for the Moscow Metro Corporation, according to his official SCAG biography. SCAG foresees mandatory tracking of all California
motorists by 2025.
A black box in your car? Some see a source of tax revenue.
As America's road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits
neatly by the dashboard of your car. The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center
of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America's major roads.
Oregon launching new
program to tax drivers per mile. Oregon is moving ahead with a controversial plan to tax motorists based on the number of miles they drive as
opposed to the amount of fuel they consume, raising myriad concerns about cost and privacy. The program, springing out of a recently signed bill, is
expected to launch in 2015 on a volunteer basis. But it's charting relatively new territory, and other states aching for additional tax revenue are sure
to be watching closely to see whether to imitate the model.
Gas Tax on Mileage as an Alternative to Current Federal Gas Tax.
One feature of the VMT tax is that it would require some way to measure travel, creating the possibility that the government will use advanced
technology to track movements of every car and truck.
• Under one scenario, automobile manufacturers would be required to install a
GPS system — a "black box" — in every vehicle to measure miles traveled.
• The government would then track your vehicle by satellite to follow each
vehicle's total travel and calculate the tax.
• A large-scale retrofit of existing cars would be necessary, requiring a
massive and costly effort, since every car owner would be required to take their car to a station
annually to have a black box installed and then read.
New pay-per-mile scheme would
boost taxes 250 percent. An on-again, off-again move by the Obama administration to scrap the federal gas tax in favor of a
pay-per-mile fee would boost the tab to Americans as high as 250 percent, raising their current tax of 18.4 cents a gallon to as high
as 46 cents, according to a new government study. But without a tax increase, said the Government Accountability Office study, the
government's highway fund is going to go dry. One reason the fund is going broke: President Obama's push for fuel efficient cars
has resulted in better mileage, and fewer stops at the pump.
gets White House OK to mandate vehicle 'black boxes'. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to
finalize a long-awaited proposal to make event data recorders standard on all new vehicles. In a notice posted Thursday [12/6/2012],
the White House Office of Management Budget said it has completed a review of the proposal to make so-called vehicle "black boxes"
mandatory in all cars and trucks, clearing the way for NHTSA to publish its final regulation. Nearly all vehicles currently
have the devices.
Black boxes in cars raise privacy
concerns. Many motorists don't know it, but it's likely that every time they get behind the wheel, there's a snitch along
for the ride.
The Editor says...
These black boxes are the paving the way for mileage taxes. When the mileage tax kicks in, you'll pay taxes at the gas pump and
additional taxes per mile. The proceeds from this tax will be spent on whatever the government wants (for example, mass transit),
not necessarily the upkeep of roads and bridges.
Oregon Department of Transportation to explore fees
based on miles driven. More fuel-efficient cars are siphoning off gas-tax revenues that support highway maintenance in Oregon.
As a result, state transportation officials are considering a mileage tax on vehicles that average 55 miles or better on a gallon of gasoline.
A pilot project started this month will test different methods of tracking mileage, which could lead to a bill before the Legislature in 2013 to tax
vehicles that need little or no gasoline. "I don't think people will be excited about GPS tracking," said Derek DeBoer, one of the owners
of TC Chevy in Ashland.
San Fran Area
Drivers Could be Forced to Install GPS Devices That Tax Their Travel. On Thursday evening [7/19/2012], a controversial study in the San Francisco
Bay Area will be voted upon that could require drivers to allow GPS devices to be installed inside their car. The ultimate goal? Not to see where
they're going, but to evaluate how much they're driving — and consider taxing them for it. [...] The proposed Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax could
cost as much as a dime per mile.
Bottled Water Going the Way of the 20-ounce Soda.
New York City is raging against salt, large sodas, and baby formula, allegedly for health reasons. San Francisco bans plastic grocery bags (as do many
Eastern LI towns), they regulate Happy Meal toys for sustainability and they have their eye on halting circumcisions because they're crazy. San Francisco
is also the city that wants to install GPS in cars so they can monitor peoples' travel and then tax them for it.
tax is latest cash grab from greedy pols. The hacks at the State House are salivating at the prospect of charging you a penny for
every mile you drive your car in Massachusetts. This is a tax increase so monstrous that it would make M. Stanley Dukakis blush.
We're talking $555 million — the first year. It's an idea so terrible it can't be killed.
This article is heavily biased:
should consider a per-mile road tax: When one adds the hundreds of billions of dollars that
will be needed to reconstruct and rehabilitate existing infrastructure, the demand for transportation funding
will be perhaps even greater than ever. The big problem in meeting this demand, however, is that the
motor fuel tax won't be enough to pay the bills for our highway needs. The fuel tax revenue stream will
decline because of increasing motor vehicle fuel efficiency and the growing number of hybrid and electric
vehicles on the road.
The Editor says...
The opinion piece above is loaded with half-truths. It is not necessary to "reconstruct and rehabilitate
existing infrastructure" as if we are about to start from scratch. And the proportion of electric cars
on the road will likely never exceed one out of 1,000.
Not in Favor of Taxing Drivers by the Mile. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was adamant in
telling CNSNews.com on Wednesday [5/25/2011] that the Obama administration does not favor tracking and taxing
Americans for every mile they drive — a so-called Vehicular Miles Traveled (VMT) tax. LaHood had
personally suggested that the administration look at a VMT early in his tenure at the Transportation
Department and it had recently been reported that the administration was considering such a tax.
Tax On Gas? Of all the ideas the White House has floated for taking more of your money, none is
more pernicious than the latest: slapping a tax on you for every mile you drive. Isn't that what our
gas tax does already?
Should drivers pay by
the mile instead of the gallon? For nearly 80 years, motorists have paid a tax every time
they put gas in their cars. What if they were taxed based on how far they drive instead?
The Editor says...
Memo to Uncle Sam: Pick one or the other, but you can't have both. Taxes on gasoline are already
paid in proportion to the number of miles driven. No one has suggested that gasoline taxes would
be replaced by the odometer tax. It will be in addition to the gas tax at the pump.
What free country? Obama
wants to track your car mileage. This idea was floated last year but the reaction to it was so negative
it disappeared. But with the deficit and debt climbing, Washington is desperate for extra cash to spend, so
it is apparently being revived. In essence, the government wants to slap a special tracking device in your car
that would record the mileage you use, and then tax it. You'd pay the tax when you fill up at gas stations who
also, we would assume, have special equipment to read the mileage on the device in your car.
administration floats draft plan to tax cars by the mile. The Obama administration has floated a
transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile
drivers based on how many miles they drive. The plan is a part of the administration's Transportation
Opportunities Act, an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.
Mn/DOT to test
driver's 'mileage tax'. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is looking for 500 people
to test technology that could someday be used to collect a mileage-based user fee. Mn/DOT anticipates a
fee on road usage might someday be necessary as more fuel efficient and hybrid cars are on the road,
decreasing revenue from the gas tax.
Here Comes the Odometer Tax.
The odometer tax would add yet another layer of taxation to the gasoline tax, the annual license plate fee,
the county road and bridge fee, the federal tax on tires, and the cost of your annual state inspection sticker.
It's like taking a taxi wherever you go —
you will pay by the mile to drive your own car.
CBO's toll-road fib:
While officially nonpartisan, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) occasionally lends its credibility to the
most fashionable theories emanating from the left. The agency's green eyeshades issued a report Wednesday [3/23/2011]
that perpetuates one of Washington's biggest lies: that drivers don't pay enough in taxes.
Bureaucrats and rent-seeking corporate allies have teamed up to advocate a solution to a problem that
doesn't exist. They want continuous tracking of everyone's driving so that every mile can be taxed.
The Termite State. The Hill
brings us a report this morning on an exciting new option for generating government revenue: taxing us
based on how many miles we drive. Democrat Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota asked the Congressional
Budget Office to look into this genius idea, which would involve installing electronic monitors in all of our
automobiles, tracking how many miles we drive and uploading the results to the IRS so a wonderful new tax
could be computed. Previous proposals along these lines involved constructing a massive network of
toll booths on every road in the country, but the CBO feels modern wireless technology and "electronic
metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option."
The Editor says...
Obviously the odometer tax favors the residents of crowded cities on the east coast and punishes those
who live in the wide-open spaces west of the Mississippi. Gasoline taxes are, too.
Taxing mileage a 'practical option' for revenue enhancement. The Congressional Budget
Office (CBO) this week released a report that said taxing people based on how many miles they drive
is a possible option for raising new revenues and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of
highway maintenance at a time when federal funds are short. The report discussed the proposal in
great detail, including the development of technology that would allow total vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
to be tracked, reported and taxed, as well as the pros and cons of mandating the installation of this
technology in all vehicles.
Benefits in Taxing Motorists Based on Miles Driven. A new Congressional Budget Office
study says taxing motorists based on the number of miles they drive would be a fair and "efficient"
way to charge motorists for the real cost of using the nation's highways. "Vehicle-miles traveled"
taxes (or VMT taxes) also would provide a strong incentive for people to drive less.
taxes by the mile. Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,
wants a vehicle mileage tax (VMT) imposed on every vehicle. And he wants it right away. When a colleague
suggested state-level pilot programs to test the feasibility of the tax, Oberstar replied: "It's going to be done,
it's something we have to do. Why not just move it along?" Oberstar hopes for a vote as early as June.
95.2% Opposed to California DMV Plan to Tax by the
Mile. Alex has been reporting on the national plan to put satellite trackers in all or cars or transponders
in all cars for seven years. The Federal plan has been public that long. Now, Oregon, California and New York
are moving forward with it. The Feds' own documents say you will be taxed over 25 cents a mile. Here in
Austin, Texas where infowars.com is based, the City has announced the transponder system and admits that is will cost the
average driver, on top of all other taxes, $1,800 a year to start.
LaHood Talks of
Mileage-Based Tax. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggested yesterday that the Obama administration
might embrace a new and controversial way to pay for highway and transit projects: charging motorists a tax for
every mile they drive. But no sooner was the idea being batted around by cable commentators and commuters than
spokesmen for the White House and LaHood's own department shot it down — hard.
Administration Shoots Down LaHood Mileage Tax Idea. President Obama's transportation department slapped down
a suggestion by its own secretary Friday [2/20/2009] that the government tax motorists based on how many miles they drive
rather than how much gasoline they burn. Secretary Ray LaHood floated the idea in an interview with The Associated
Press. Gasoline taxes for nearly half a century have paid for the federal share of highway and bridge construction,
but LaHood said they can no longer be counted on to raise enough money to keep the nation's transportation system moving.
about GPS tracking every car on the road. Wow, those Brits sure do love surveilling each other. Even
as both Houses of Parliament conduct independent investigations on how nearly-constant CCTV monitoring is affecting British
citizens, a group of researchers issued a report on future transportation policy that recommended the growing British
traffic problem be solved by tracking every car on the road with GPS.
Rhode Island wants to
tax miles driven. Driving your car may take on a new and larger meaning — for your wallet.
To fix its crumbling roads and bridges and rescue the state's financially challenged public transit system, a draft report
made public yesterday says the state should consider charging tolls at the state line on every interstate highway and
creating a new tax for each mile a vehicle is driven.
E-tracking, coming to a
DMV near you. Trust federal bureaucrats to take a good idea and transform it into a frightening proposal to
track Americans wherever they drive. The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to
state governments for GPS-tracking pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington
state and Oregon have received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these "mileage-based road user fees.
Company Betting On GPS-Based Driving Tax.
Back in 2003, the state of Oregon considered a driving tax, which would involve putting GPS devices on cars so the
government could see how far you drove, and then tax you for it. The idea being that those who drive more should
pay a larger portion of taxes to support the roads they drive on. Of course, for many, many people, the idea of the
government keeping tabs on where you drive and how far you go seems rather Big Brotherish ... .
Runnin' on Empty. For
more than a year, David Porter and David Kim, two professors at Oregon State University, have been developing a
prototype GPS mileage-data unit and an odometer-based mileage collection system. The wallet-sized GPS
device would be mounted inside a vehicle's engine compartment or under the dashboard. The system also
requires an antenna for receiving information from GPS satellites and transmitting mileage data to readers at
gas stations. The readers would electronically pull miles-traveled information from drivers' GPS units or
odometer tags, apply the proposed 1.25 cent per mile tax and add that amount directly to their
E-tracking may change the way you drive.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to state governments for GPS-tracking
pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington state and Oregon have
received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these "mileage-based road user fees."
British government is considering scrapping fuel tax and replacing it with a new
road charge based on the distance and time motorists travel.
GPS NMEA spoofing. Chris
Barron is getting pretty unnerved by the UK moving to charging for road use based on GPS
coordinates. He built [a] device to prove that GPS data can be spoofed and shouldn't be relied
upon. He promises future firmware updates that will provide two knob etch-a-sketch style
The mileage tax: coming
soon?. The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to test a system of charging by the mile
next year in Portland. The pilot program does not have much visibility yet, so it is not
controversial. It should be. Pilot programs have a way of becoming permanent programs. Taxing
highway use by the mile rather than by gallons consumed is a radical shift in the tax burden. It
discriminates against motorists who live in sparsely populated parts of Oregon to solve a problem that
exists largely in the Willamette and Rogue Valleys and Central Oregon.
Vehicle Tracking Can Tell You How You Drive. You may also have the benefit of a reduced insurance premium if you install a tracking device in your
vehicle, but check with your insurance company first as they may require you to install a particular make or standard of
device or system. Another benefit will be available to you when it comes around to that wonderful time of the year
when you have to do your tax returns. Your GPS device will record the exact mileage that you have covered so that
you never have to take down readings from the odometer ever again.
The Editor says...
That is only true if the GPS receiver operates error free, for as long as you own the car. It won't.
Driving While Intaxicated:
While the state [of Oregon] sees the concept as the perfect replacement for its existing gasoline tax, privacy
watchdogs are calling foul play over a plan that turns Big Brother into the ultimate backseat driver. And
environmentalists are concerned that the plan reduces the incentive to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles. ...
"We're also looking at variable pricing and congestion pricing," [one of the developers] said, "and we
could even do different time-of-day rates." For example, the state could make it more expensive to drive
downtown during rush hour than it would be to cover the same ground during a midnight munchie run when
the streets are deserted.
Kulongoski to pursue
mileage tax. A year ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had demonstrated
that a new way to pay for roads — via a mileage tax and satellite technology — could
work. Now Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he'd like the legislature to take the next step. As part of a
transportation-related bill he has filed for the 2009 legislative session, the governor says he plans to
recommend "a path to transition away from the gas tax as the central funding source for transportation."
PAYD: Privacy And Your
Driving. Major car insurance companies, such as Progressive and GMAC, have recently begun
offering "pay-as-you-drive" (PAYD) programs. To participate, drivers connect a device to their vehicle
that monitors mileage, speed, time of day, hard braking, quick accelerations, and other data points.
This information can be sent wirelessly to the insurance company, and drivers' premiums are adjusted
accordingly. So now when some crazed fool suddenly cuts you off and you brake hard in response,
that other motorist is costing you money in addition to endangering you.
Why 70 Miles Per
Hour Is the New 55: Left to their own devices, American drivers confronted with an open stretch
of interstate highway tend to drive at about 70 miles per hour — whatever the legal speed limit
happens to be. That's the finding of an analysis of speed data gathered by TomTom Inc., a marketer
of GPS navigation devices.
The Editor asks...
And how did they find out? Is TomTom harvesting data from units in the field?
Oregon looks at taxing mileage instead of
gasoline. Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number
of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in
300 vehicles. The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient
cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes.
The Editor asks...
Will the mileage tax replace the gasoline tax, or just add to it? Will cars with GPS devices pull
up to tax-free pumps? I doubt it. Please note that it is the "blue state" governments that
come up with more and more ways to raise taxes. It would make more sense to reduce the states' spending.
Driver. For lo these many years, the Democratic motorcade class has scolded American workers for driving
gas-guzzling cars. Now that Americans have begun driving more fuel-efficient cars and driving less, how have the
finger-waggers reacted? No, they are not planning a parade — they already are working on a new tax on miles
driven to make up for lost gasoline-tax revenue.
Obama Administration Says No to
Transportation Secretary's Mileage Tax Idea. President Barack Obama will not adopt a policy to
tax motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy, his chief spokesman
said Friday. Press secretary Robert Gibbs commented after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told The
Associated Press that he wants to consider the idea, which has been proposed in some states but has angered
mileage charge being considered elsewhere. The idea behind a VMT [Vehicle Miles Traveled] program
is simple: As cars become more fuel efficient or powered by electricity, gas tax revenues decline.
Yet the cost of building and maintaining roads and bridges is increasing, requiring an alternate form of
funding. A state could cover that gap with other taxes — or by charging drivers precisely
for the mileage their vehicles put on public roads.
Pawlenty wants Minnesota to test
mileage tax. State officials say Minnesota is working on a pilot program to test the idea of charging
drivers for each mile they drive. Other states around the country are considering a vehicle mileage tax, as
revenues from the gas tax are expected to decline. The cost of each gallon of gas includes 18.4 cents
to fund federal highway programs, and another 25.5 cents for roads in Minnesota.
Drivers in opposition to
tax plan. Nevadans expressed concern Tuesday [3/30/2010] that government would be tracking their
driving routes should the state Department of Transportation switch to a Vehicles Miles Traveled system of
highway taxation. "There are serious privacy concerns with the VMT system," said Rebecca Gasca, public
advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. "In some of the proposals, the government
would know where you were driving 24 hours a day."
taxing miles driven. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he wants to consider taxing
motorists based on how many miles they drive rather than how much gasoline they burn — an
idea that has angered drivers in some states where it has been proposed.
transportation goal: coercing people out of cars. Liberals love Ray LaHood because he
is the type of Republican who wants government to control more of American life. When President Obama
named him secretary of transportation, it was not so much an act of bipartisanship as an expression of ideological
solidarity. About a month into his tenure, LaHood told the Associated Press that the administration
should consider taxing people for every mile they drive their car, a system that would require tracking
wouldn't mind government tracking your car and mileage real-time, would you? Great news: State governments are
finally realizing they've about topped out the huge taxes hidden in the price of each gallon of gasoline. Of course, that
doesn't mean they'll make do with the tax revenues they have. Not-so-great news: They're looking to nip American drivers
another way, by taxing us according to how many miles we use the roadways.
Attaching a GPS Locator System
to a Car: Is It A "Search"? Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are being used ever
more in our nation and across the world. Law enforcement as well has a strong interest in the
use of such devices in order to locate specific vehicles or to conduct surveillances electronically
and surreptitiously. But is the use of such devices by police subject to the restrictions imposed
on public authority by the Fourth Amendment?
In my opinion this could have an impact on the odometer tax:
GPS use voids conviction.
Ruling that federal agents erred in attaching a satellite tracking device to a vehicle without a search warrant,
a federal appeals court has reversed the life sentence of man accused of running a major Washington drug ring.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Friday [8/6/2010] found that the government's use
of GPS technology to track defendant Antoine Jones' Jeep violated the Fourth Amendment.
An "odometer tax" is a tax based on the number of miles traveled. If the tax is
really for road and bridge maintenance, the government must assume that that your
car stays on public roads (within the U.S.) all the time. But how is the
mileage calculated? How do you measure the distance from Point A to
Point B without knowing the location of both points, and how would the
average user know if his or her position was being reported or not?
The most likely result of this scheme is something like this: Every vehicle would contain
a "black box" (another one!) that would keep track of the vehicle's location, perhaps
every minute, and possibly every second of the day. The data could be "dumped" out of
the black box through a wireless connection whenever the car visits a gas station, or through
direct contact when the vehicle is taken in for a mandatory annual state inspection. Some
kind of feature would be incorporated to keep the car from running in the absence of GPS information,
which means that if the GPS antenna breaks, or the car spends more than a few minutes in a tunnel or
parking garage (or anywhere GPS signals don't go), the engine would quit, or perhaps your high-beam
headlights would stay on. Numerous other unintended consequences will inevitably develop from
this kind of Orwellian scheme.
(Note that GPS is a transmit-only navigation system — the GPS satellites transmit to users on the
ground. Contrary to common misconceptions, often repeated by poorly educated "journalists",
information is not transmitted to the GPS satellites by anyone other than the US military.)
There are serious risks connected with
over-reliance upon (and excessive faith in) computers of all kinds. "Sanity checking" of
the data is a must. There are people who believe everything they read on a computer
screen. When they are the ones assessing taxes, we're all in trouble. If
the GPS-based odometer says that I drove 9000 miles yesterday, the minimum-wage clerks at
the courthouse aren't likely to believe otherwise.
topic: Cops believe their computer terminals, no matter what they say.
GPS receivers often report speed and position incorrectly. I have a hand-held GPS device that
I sometimes use as a speedometer in my car. At the moment it says that my maximum speed (since the
last reset) was 443 mph. My 16-year-old Honda wouldn't go that fast straight down, but at
least I don't have to explain the anomaly to a municipal court judge.
The odometer tax removes much of the incentive to own a fuel efficient vehicle. Many
people have bought smaller cars and gas/electric hybrids in an attempt to avoid buying expensive
gasoline, and a substantial part of that expense is due to state and federal gasoline taxes.
With the odometer tax in place, these consumers who thought the were doing the right thing are
going to get soaked anyway.
More about odometer taxes.
Tracking the whereabouts of cell phone users.
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See also Privacy Compromised by Big Government.
... and The use of Traffic Signals as Fundraisers.
... and The Abuse of Power by Ordinary Cops.
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