Two hundred Triangle drivers will be recruited this fall to road-test a satellite-technology system that might be used one day to collect road taxes on every mile we drive — replacing the gas tax on every gallon we buy.
Computers, mounted in volunteers’ cars, will use GPS tracking to count how many miles each car travels in each state.
Participants will receive make-believe state and federal tax bills for their miles. For their time and their opinions, they’ll be paid $895 in real money.
The $16.5 million Road User Charge Study will enlist drivers in six states to determine whether the technology works, and whether Americans would accept a new mileage tax. Volunteers will be asked how they feel about technology that collects information about their driving.
The federal government and 15 states, including North Carolina, launched the study to find a fair, reliable revenue source that can keep pace with the nation’s growing transportation needs.
“The gas tax is not going to be a viable way of funding our highways in the future,” Professor Jon Kuhl of the University of Iowa, who is directing the study, said in an interview. “The national Highway Trust Fund is already going broke, and the situation is going to get worse.”
Gas tax collections are slowing as cars get more miles on each gallon, and as $4 pump prices force Americans to reduce their driving. A few years from now, many Americans might be driving plug-in electric and fuel-cell cars that don’t use any gas at all.
With the $895 bounty and an advertising campaign that will start next week, Kuhl and his team hope to enlist a diverse mix of car owners from the six-county Triangle area. Details are available by phone at 866-363-1975 (toll-free) or online at www.roaduserstudy.org.
After the participants are chosen and trained, their cars will be outfitted with GPS computers. The eight-month road test will start by early December. It will use the satellite technology that drives popular dashboard navigation gadgets.
Each month, the car’s computer will record the number of miles driven in each state, then upload the information to a central billing system.