The future of car use payment is here

Here is a preview of car rentals and car sharing. [thank you Russell] Hop in, record usage by distance and duration, and hop out. Only two things are missing – time of trip and location of travel. Imagine adding, as almost certainly will be added, a variable fee depending on time of day/day of week and place of travel – specifically set up to charge less for uncongested times and places. [Just like the airlines do, now.]

A small on-board computer – a “road-use-meter” – will translate location time, place and distance information into a fee in a way that protects privacy (even providing anonymity) and charges the user appropriately.

Why do all this? Well, it is easy to see that the company that owns the cars will want to be paid according to how long a car is in the possession of a user (duration) and by how much wear-and-tear has occurred (distance driven). As well, distance driven will relate to a road-use fee, since the subject vehicles do not use petrol.

But why time or day of trip? And why location of travel? These latter two measurements relate to congestion. If usage-prices differ in these ways, then traffic managers can reduce congestion by charging less at non-peak times and places.

As well, road-use pricing like this is expected be used before long for privately owned cars, whether they are propelled by an electric motor or not.

Programs like these mean we’ll need to build fewer roads, we’ll generate fewer emissions and we’ll endure less gridlock for the same vehicle miles traveled. In many countries – those with currently high fuel taxes – it will be possible to lower travel costs for those drivers who can avoid peak times and places.

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