Government Looks to Mandate Black Boxes for Vehicles

By:  Raven Clabough
10/29/2013
       
Government Looks to Mandate Black Boxes for Vehicles

Federal and state governments are working on plans to require motor vehicles to feature a black-box tracking device capable of reporting real-time vehicle location, speed, and mileage directly to government authorities.

It is being promoted as a means to fund road maintenance and maintain “highway safety,” though the proposal is clearly a means for various levels of government to extract yet more tax dollars from hard-working Americans, and keep track of citizens.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “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to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America’s major roads.”

The push behind the black box technology comes as the Highway Trust Fund, paid for by taxes at the gas pump, is out of money. Owing to inflation and the fact that Americans are not buying as much gas as they used to, because of a sluggish economy and increased vehicle fuel efficiency, the fund has ultimately gone broke. The federal tax, 18.4 cents per gallon, has not been raised in years as lawmakers are hesitant to do so while gas prices remain so high.

"The gas tax is just not sustainable," said Lee Munnich, a transportation policy expert at the University of Minnesota. His state recently put tracking devices on 500 cars to test out a pay-by-mile system. "This works out as the most logical alternative over the long term," he said.

According to the LA Times, libertarians and environmental groups are in favor of the boxes, while Tea Party conservatives and the American Civil Liberties Union are opposed to the proposal, asserting that the black box technology poses serious threats to privacy.

Though members of Congress have not agreed on the black box mandate, state governments are already forging ahead and exploring how they can move to a system wherein drivers pay per mile of road. "[Several state governments are] exploring how, over the next decade, they can move to a system in which drivers pay per mile of road they roll over. Thousands of motorists have already taken the black boxes, some of which have GPS monitoring, for a test drive," reports the LA Times.

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