Technology Enabling Near-Term Nationwide Implementation of Distance Based Road User Fees


Max Donath, Alec Gorjestani, Craig Shankwitz, Richard Hoglund, Eddie Arpin, Pi-Ming Cheng, Arvind Menon, Bryan Newstrom

June 2009

Report no. CTS 09-20

This report describes a system meant for near-term deployment that directly determines the distance traveled by a vehicle and uses this as a basis for charging a fee that reflects road use. An in-vehicle device with access to the vehicle data bus and power through a single standard connector available on all passenger vehicles since 1996, electronically calculates the distance and then securely communicates relevant information to a "back office" for processing and transferring accumulated fees from the user to the appropriate government jurisdiction. Also described are means for providing payment (and receiving credit for motor fuel use taxes paid at the pump) while also ensuring compliance, enforcement, transparency and privacy. Communication is via text messaging, available wherever cellular service is accessible. No new wireless infrastructure is needed. The in-vehicle device distinguishes distance traveled by state or by other regions of interest e.g., rural vs. urban areas, using the same cellular technology that is used for communications. Aggregating distance based on rural vs. urban travel can facilitate different pricing policies for these different road users. Neither a GPS receiver nor longitude/latitude position data is necessary. However, higher resolution position sensing can be added to the core platform as needed based on policy objectives, e.g., to consider alternate pricing for specific road facilities.

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