Black Boxes In Cars Could Help Government Replace Fuel Tax With Pay-As-You Drive Scheme (While Tracking Your Location)


Right at the nadir of public opinion over the government’s abuse of surveillance power comes a fresh story about cars, black boxes, real-time location surveillance and government tax collectors. It forecasts a near future when private cars will be equipped with data recorders that tell the government where you are, how you’re driving, and how much you should pay in road usage taxes.

The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend on a new push for government to consider mandating the devices in all cars so that the tax man can “track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats…”

Oddly, the Times appears to use the story to drive some kind of wedge between the tea party and libertarians – two groups that, despite the blurring of their ideological boundaries at the edges, share a fair amount of overlap.

Libertarians have joined environmental groups in lobbying to allow government to use the little boxes to keep track of the miles you drive, and possibly where you drive them — then use the information to draw up a tax bill.

The tea party is aghast. The American Civil Liberties Union is deeply concerned, too, raising a variety of privacy issues.

Something sounds slightly…off. Libertarians for a surveillance state and innovative taxes? It will take more effort for media to redefine terms like “libertarian” if the intent is to create unfounded emotional responses from the public. Nonetheless, the plan evidently has the support of Reason’s vice president of policy, who sees the scheme as a less-unfair pay-as-you-go usage assessment on motorists.

Leaving that aside, the move toward black boxes in cars is being helped by a pilot program in Minnesota, where the State placed the devices in 500 cars to test a pay-per-mile fee system. And that program pales in comparison to a stalled effort by the U.S. Senate, in 2011, to allot $90 million for a wider pilot project that sought to deploy 10,000 similarly-equipped cars. The House killed that plan.

Notwithstanding the fact that the 18.4-cent Federal gas tax already washes the Appropriations budget with highway funds, pundits point to the higher fuel efficiency of modern cars, along with the absence of political will to raise the gas tax, as two reasons for the stagnation of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Of course, the government is grasping not at reforms in spending existing highway dollars efficiently, but in finding new ways to ensure revenue growth by adopting a different taxation model for road infrastructure.

From the story:

“This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. “There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it.”

By all means, if the technology is there to do it, then it must be done. Is that the argument?

Some transportation policy planners see black box programs like Minnesota’s as the future of Federal transportation funding. “The gas tax is just not sustainable,” said UM transportation policy expert Lee Munnich. “This works out as the most logical alternative over the long term.”

Sure. But more likely is a scenario in which one new tax doesn’t simply replace an old one, but rather augments it. Taxes, fees and tolls aren’t readily repealed by governments, which always seek out visionary ways to conceal the total cost of tribute from the people, who passively sustain governments by failing to resist integral confiscation schemes.

The black box plan has a long way to go before becoming a standard, but if it takes root, it will become one of the most convenient confiscation schemes our government has yet devised. Along with Obamacare, which asks far too much personal information from private citizens, the black box model would also become one of the most egregious invasions of Federal government into private life, potentially paving the way for the Feds to extract far more from law-abiding motorists than mere taxes.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • independent thinker

    I have no problem with the concept of people paying for their highway usage based on their mileage. I do however have a big problem with the inevitable tracking of your vehicle so the money can be properly divided between federal, state, county, and city roads.

    • Stephine

      No. NO. NO. Get government the ‘f’ out of our lives don’t invite them in. I can tell you right now that box would be the first thing that got disconnected, just like that Onstar [expletive deleted]. That dam thing can track you already and don’t think the government doesn’t use it. It can keep your car from running. It can remotely unlock your car. Anyone ever hear of hackers, it’s not to hard to crack that signal being sent.
      I have it in one car and the first thing I did was disconnect the satellite uplink. No contacting this Onstar surveillance computer and that is the way it is gonna stay.

      • Motov

        Right On!

      • Chester

        Problem is, if you drive a car built after about 2005, most likely it already HAS a black box installed, and hooked into the rest of the computers that control your car to the extent it can NOT be disconnected or removed. The current car has between four and ten computers controlling everything from engine emissions to the internal temperature and seat positions, so a few more circuits are no big deal.

    • Nadzieja Batki

      We already as a nation paid for those roads, highways, and bridges many times over. It also has nothing to do with the maintenance charges to maintain the roads, highways, and bridges and the signs and the equipment and anything else on the detail sheets.

      • Doc Sarvis

        Why do you say it has nothing to do with the maintenance charges to maintain the roads, highways, and bridges and the signs?

  • bjeanfreau7

    I knew this would come up eventually. With the rise in electric and “at home filled” natural gas cars, I was wondering how they were going to collect the taxes that are needed but not being paid through the taxes on gasoline.

  • scott miller

    They can track your cell phone, they can track your car, they can put chips inside you that track you. They can track your internet usage.

    Sure it is all about new and innovative ways to apply taxes and not about being able to control people.

    George Orwell your brave new world is coming not at a snails pace but a run away locomotive.

    They have your profiled, categorized, sorted before you have actually done anything. God help you if you do decide to actually do something as they take more control, monitor you more and more, decide to pull a boston harbor? too bad they already read all your emails, know where you called from, who you called, know where your car is parked, know where it was parked 20 minutes ago, and can take a good guess where it will be 20 minutes from now.

    Privacy concerns HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA. More cameras, more chips, more sattelites, after all we are the real enemy, not some arab 50,000 miles away from here.


      “Knowledge is a deadly friend when the ignorant set the rules, the fate of all mankind I see is in the hands of fools.” -Pete Sinfield

  • JimH

    Just leave the gas powered cars as is and use the gas tax for roads.
    Put the added expense of a black box to the people who want an electric car.
    Problem solved.

  • JimH

    If the black boxes were like the ones in planes, that record voices, the last words the driver would be heard to say would be, “hold my beer and watch this”. :)

  • Batty McMoskowitz

    This is the part of the poisonous paradigm that wants to herd people into the big cities, by taking away their land through eminent domain, taking away their vehicle, taking away their guns…..It is called UN AGENDA 21 !!!!

  • Vigilant

    DHS must have purchased the rights to Orwell’s “1984” and turned it into a federal manual.


    here it is folks,yet another start to an end!
    agenda 21 for your car,how cute!..uugghh..spit,sorry,i threw up in my mouth a little!

  • Motov

    Now they want to monitor us? What’s next? Permission to drive to a store and buy what they tell us we can buy? And we must turn where “Garvin-plus” tells us or we will go to jail? These control freaks must be stopped! We must assert ourselves!

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

    It is time to change the Government! Obviously, Obozo’s “Change” and “Move Forward” has everything to do with tyranny, and stripping us of our GOD GIVEN RIGHTS.

  • dan

    Wisconsin has instituted a system whereby heavy (logging,farming,delivery) trucks must apply for / register ALL routes , roads and times …. may ve see your papers !

  • TimAZ

    I’m apposed to any new taxes period. The govt. is so far in debt that their is not enough dollars in existence to manage the debt that drives this monster. The best thing to do is put the beast out of its misery like a rabid dog. Do you suppose these black boxes will disable your vehicle every time you are behind on your highway use tax. I suppose it would depend on wether they place a higher priority on tracking your coming and going, how long you stayed at each destination, How fast you drove, Did you speed through any school zones. The information is quite broad and a violation of the fifth amendment it would seem. If local govt. decided they need a piece of the pie.

    • Robert Messmer

      As well as the fourth amendment, to be secure in our effects (cars). If government can track you then you are not secure.

  • Doc Sarvis

    Incentivizing mass transit, bikes, walking, telecommuting for work, etc. That will reduce our dependence on oil and other resources and help make us healthier. I know most of you will hate this.
    Semper Fi

    • Dino Popapooopalous

      As usual you have no clue….if everyone took mass transit, it would be a disaster…there are too many taxes already, Like all the LOONY TUNES LIBS, you do not think things through, just say,”gee that’s sounds nice, more taxes will get everyone off dirty gas….BLAH, BLAH, BLAH,”…truth is oil & gas & natural gas are cleaner than ever & we got more than all the world combined, the sheikhs & crazy Mullahs are running out of it!!!

      • Doc Sarvis

        The modes of transport or shunning the black boxes would actually allow you to AVOID THE TAXES. Can you not see that?

        • Dino Popapooopalous

          Govt. needs to stay out of this, as usual, because they always mess things up!!! The road to hell is paved with good intentions & usually by wacky Libtards like you!!

          • Doc Sarvis

            We rely on the roads for a ton of important daily functions including commerce, emergency services, and private individuals daily tasks (work, errands, getting to and from leisure events, etc.). We task government at the Federal, State, and local levels to build and maintain roads. This is paid for with our tax dollars. I don’t see how government can stay out of the roads business since we demand that they take care of it.
            See, I did that without even calling you a name. Try it.

          • Alan

            If you drink more of the liberal Kool Aid you will surely drown..

  • Pretty PoleKat Dancer

    They’re killing us….These boxes are as black as Obummer’s corrupt, satanic but!!!

  • CatGman

    Government is getting bigger and bigger. They are trying to get into our cars as well as our homes. Government is already regulating the amount of water allowed per each flush of your toilet. It is just a matter of time before they will be trying to tax us per flush. They are already telling us what we MUST PURCHASE (ACA). They will soon tell us what we are allowd to eat and drink. Soon enough they will tell us where we are allowed to buy our goods, and what those goods will be. Is it too late to say enough is enough?

  • placidly1

    Let me tell you how it will be,
    There’s one for you, nineteen for me,
    ‘Cause I’m the Taxman,

    Should five per cent appear too small,
    Be thankful I don’t take it all.
    Yeah, I’m the Taxman.

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat,
    If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
    Now my advice for those who die,
    Declare the pennies on your eyes,
    ‘Cause I’m the Taxman,
    Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
    And you’re working for no-one but me.

    But, the way this country is going, I don’t feel like singing.

  • Alan

    It’s hard to know what the progressives would want more – the money, or the ability to know where we are at any given moment.

  • ibn insha

    Anybody who believes that black boxes are for taxes only is dead wrong.

    A vehicle’s impact on road depends on its weight and speed. As weight
    and speed increases so does fuel consumption. The heavier a vehicle is
    and more miles it is driven more tax is collected. Simple idea. Tax collector does not have to worry about keeping record and collecting tax of over a hundred million vehicles in the country. If more
    money is needed for road projects just increase the gas tax. Yes that
    would be very unpopular but taxing in another way will be equally

    Obama Administration has already increased taxes on people,
    directly and indirectly. Then why government wants to install black
    boxes in vehicles when that system would require headache of record
    keeping of mileage driven to tax vehicle owners? Why government needs to
    know the speed and location of the vehicle when tax would be based on
    mileage driven? Simple. To spy on us. Under the guise of tax the
    government would be able to know our location each and every moment that
    we spend in our vehicle. Government wants more power for more money for
    more power. In the end, it is not about money it is about power and
    control. Money is just means to ends.

    • ted

      They might want to control the vehicle too. Slow it down, shut it down, speed it up to crash it.

    • Melissa Kellison

      Think of how many more government employees will be needed to process the data. Bigger government. The new taxes will have to cover their pay and the overhead of the system. This is stealing from us to create unnecessary jobs. Gas is already taxed and the more gas you use you already naturally pay more in tax. This is incentive enough to slow down and not carry unneeded heavy things in your car. And you’re right, this is just going to overlay taxes and tolls already being paid, none will be rescinded. So, everybody go ahead and use your jello-brains to cheer the new tax! This is good for you! Why don’t you just donate your whole paycheck to the government. Go ahead, hand it over now, beat them to the punch and be uber-good, well-fleeced citizen-sheep! Your reward is being thrown in jail for being homeless. Yay! Three squares and a roof over your heads, the state is taking care of you! Then when stuff hits the fan you get a hole in your head and thrown in the bayou. Or how about you wake up now and call b.s. Nullify and dissent!

  • bob

    Whoever thinks up these schemes to track us every minute of our life should be imprisoned!


    Replace? In the end it will probably be an ADDITIONAL tax!