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back to article Researchers, spooks favour satnav-based road pricing

A group of transport experts and researchers has come out in favour of road-pricing using satellite tracking. The transport panel run by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET, representing "the profession of electrical, electronic, manufacturing and systems engineering and related sciences") briefed reporters on …

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Anonymous Coward

Why not simply price it into the petrol?

Sounds like an excuse for surveillance.

Why not simply price it into the petrol? You want people to reduce the journeys taken by car whether they are on busy roads or quiet roads. Congestion isn't the only problem, lack of oil (UK is now a net importer of oil) and global warming are 2 others. Fewer journeys and more efficient cars are the way to go.

So you shift as much fixed annual cost onto per-mile cost, to encourage people to leave their car at home and save the money instead by making as many journeys without the car.

1. shift the annual car tax, to a per mile tax.

2. Encourage insurance companies to give deep discounts to low mileage drivers.

3. Avoid fixed one time costs (including expensive GPS/Receiver/Charging equipment!) .

4. Increase the MOT interval to 2-3 years (common in Europe) or per mileage (e.g. every 20,000 miles).

So if a person wants to reduce their costs they can simply drive less, and automatically save, not just the cost of the petrol, but a proportion of the insurance, a proportion of the tax etc..

Conversely, say you pay 700 GBP in fixed charges annually, you'll never save that 2GBP daily charge, regardless of whether you cycle to work or drive to work. Any public transport alternative has to be AT LEAST 2 GBP better value to make it worth switching to public transport.

As public transport usage goes up, presumably the congestion goes down, and presumably the quality of public transport will improve.

It has other advantages too, it's non discriminatory, if I don't have the kit, I can't drive in the charging zone. That discriminates against me. (How do these works for EU license plates too?)

It's non invasive, since when did we give up our right to privacy?

Plus road charging creates a company to monitor the charges, once you've done that that company will lobby for more and more charges and cameras to expand their business. That's counterproductive. The more money spent on road infrastructure, the more locked into using the roads we've spent so much money on.

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Silver badge

Road pricing

The idea that the M25 in rush hour is full of cars that wouldn't be there if only there was a way of collecting a few quid from each of them is patent nonsense. For the benefit of our leaders in their chauffeured limos/helicopters, the reason I'm there is because I'VE GOT TO GET TO BL00DY WORK! (Sorry to shout.)

No doubt there will be a few at the economic margins who would be priced into unemployment, but for 99% of us, it's just another tax which we will have to pay with gritted teeth.

BTW in most European countries, the cost of a season ticket is (quite reasonably) tax-deductible. Perhaps making this type of change (and constructing a half-way decent public transport system) would encourage people to leave their cars at home. But that would require action and initiative, so not much chance of that then.

</RANT>

PS "turn your phone on remotely" - how does that work then? I can see how it might be possible with a PDA phone that's still 'on' even when it's 'off', but for a basic GSM handset? Is what's being talked of here the ability to switch an active phone into listening mode, so that it can act as a remote bugging device? This would sound much more plausible.

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In favour????

Why are you commies talking about road pricing as if it's a good thing?

This is how it always happens. The government devises some crackpot spooking scheme that noone agrees with, and there is uproar, petitions etc and the government falls back and says "we're not actually going to do it, we're just looking at different options"

Next thing you know the press is putting good words out about it and brainwashing the public into thinking it was always a good idea, talking about it as if noone ever objected to it. We could count on you guys to maintain scepticism and continue to rubbish idiotic plans like this.

We all know how much the unclued general public is affected by the wording of stories in the media. Are you lot now under control too?

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Anonymous Coward

appropriate laws

Personaly Im not that worried about MI5 tracking me by my Mobile. They have better things to do than that. What I am worryd about is how there will be Laws alowing Police access to the GPS data. It will start with Terrorist suspects, then be called as evidence in a murder trial (To prove where someone was which noone will object to because it will probably start with some horiffic murder and work its way down) then drink driving (To prove someone was at the pub) and finaly, once everyone is used to the system... Pulled over for a genral roadside stop and Plod will be looking back at your entier driving history.

Anyway, Im off to find my tinfoil hat befor "they" start reading my mind road tax.

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Makes me ashamed

As an engineer nominally linked to to IET (well, they're the ones that accredited my degree), it makes me ashamed to be associated with them. How can any thinking person possibly advocate such a ludicrously complicated system when the solution is so simple, and already in place. Namely fuel tax.

If you want to tax how far a car has been, tax the fuel.

If you want to tax people with bigger cars, tax the fuel.

If you want to push a new tech and all its associated R&D onto a customer that will pay 3 times over budget, and still come back for more, use a satnav system. Who would think that the IET could have such a neutral pov.

The only possible draw back I can see is that its not so easy to have dynamic pricing based on location. But road tolls seem to work (well?) throughout the world and in London.

The bigger problem is the mandate these institutes seem to have acquired for themselves. Basically, they're massively state subsidised (albeit not directly) protectionist operations. They shouldn't be speaking on matters such as this. It has nothing to do with them.

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technology blindness?

The purpose of road-pricing, we're told, is to persuade people to travel less, or pay for the consequences. Therefore vehicles will be charged by the mile for their journeys. Large/heavy vehicles do more damage to roads and the environment, and should pay more. The resultant cash will be used by the government to maintain infrastructure and improve public transport (ok, so no-one really believes that bit).

Understandably the companies and organisations who sell and promote technology want to see high-tech solutions like GPS and satnav used (i.e. bought). Government ministeres want to be seen to be modern an in-touch with the latest hi-tech equipment.

Leaving aside all this self-serving and political cr*p, can anyone tell me why simply increasing the tax on fuel won't provide exactly the same end result, inherently weighted to favour small economical and 'cleaner' vehicles, at a much lower cost to everyone except the satnav suppliers? It also has the advantage that there's no way to cheat. No jamming, disconnecting of black boxes, faking registration numbers etc. You want to drive, buy the fuel.

Am I missing something here?

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Anonymous Coward

A first for the Reg

"maybe with a bit of intelligently designed shielding."

That's the first time the Reg has ever supported intelligent design.

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Demand...

At $15k, you can afford to buy a lot of miles on congested roads before you get a GPS simulator... and you'd have to be pretty concerned about maintaining your privacy. Still, I suppose a higher demand might produce a mass-market if the government don't make it a requirement to have a license to own one of these things legally.

The major problems with road pricing that might trip it up lie elsewhere, in the unpredictability of journey cost (who'd buy a train ticket if the price, paid upon arrival, could be double or triple the lowest quoted cost, and higher if the train were delayed?) and the billing, payment and enforcement burden. Road Tax and fuel tax are standardised charges easily collectable, and whatever road pricing scheme is used, the hauliers are going to squeal, so put the congestion charge on petrol tax. but be clear about what you're doing and abandon the road tax element.

The problem with doing that in a cost-neutral way is that the hauliers don't at the moment pay their fair share, and so will get lumbered with higher costs which, if the government has the balls to make 'em stick, will increase freight costs and therefore raise inflation as they're passed on to retail prices.

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Tracking

Since the government cannot ensure that all vehicles pay road tax, have insurance and an MOT when necessary, how will they put a tracking device in all cars? The honest will pay, but the dishonest will not.

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Time shifting

Just taxing the fuel gives people the incentive to travel less with smaller engines. It does not give any incentive to travel outside of peak hours. This is the one advantage of the scheme.

The disadvantage is quite horrific. The bureaucrats will be slobbering with delight at the thought of being able to monitor everyone everywhere all the time. No doubt they will claim it will eliminate terrorism, crime and bad stuff. Like all their brilliant ideas it will hit the 90% who are normal law-abiding citizens and the usual suspects will find the loopholes.

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Rob
Bronze badge

Shielding

GPS is hardly reliable... if you want to shield a GPS unit that's mounted inside your car (a-typically on the dash) then just make sure you have a windscreen with sufficient heatshield properties to help block/delay the signals, make it worse my switching on the heating and directing it at the windscreen.

Also to effectively get round the system, drive your car into a garage (no signal) modify the GPS unit with a shield (some heavy metal case that looks like the original) and the government will think your car never leaves the garage.

This GPS road taxing scheme is just yet another government idea involving technology that seems destined to fail, not unlike any other government IT project.

You want to talk about intelligent shielding, how about shielding the government from their crazy over paid technology consultants that seem to dream up useless ways of justifying their wage while wasting tax payers money.

I work in an educational institute at the moment and not one of my IT projects has involved over spending or missing it's deadline (it's not that hard), so I can quite happily sleep at night knowing I have spent your money (and mine) well.

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Simple...

.. the concept of the Faraday Cage will become very well known.

Or why need a GPS simulator? Surely any cheap-o device that can kick out noise on the same frequencies would disrupt it sufficiently?

"Damn, my tracker is broken again..."

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Silver badge

Leave the motorist alone!

Britain's archaic transport taxation laws date back to a time when motor cars were a luxury item used by a minority of the population. Today that situation has changed, with the motor car being a necessity for the majority of the majority of the population.

It would be simplest and fairest to fund the maintenance of the roads through general taxation. We already pay enough tax on fuel.

Even non-car-owners benefit directly from the existence of the road network. So why should they not contribute to its upkeep? After all, the goods they buy in the stores to which they walked (on the pavement, which is part of the road) or cycled (on the road) had to be delivered by road.

The easiest way to cut congestion would be to have businesses stagger their working hours. Instead of everyone trying to get to work before 09:00 and trying to get out at 17:00, have some businesses working 07:00 to 15:00, some 11:00 to 19:00 and others everywhere inbetween, so spreading the rush hour over several hours. Most modern office buildings don't depend on natural daylight; and modern communications such as e-mail, faxes and voicemail wait for us rather than demanding for us to be there at the same time as the other party.

And if the shanks's pony brigade still object, give them a state benefit to make up for it. It'll probably still work out cheaper.

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Ben
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its a diversion.....

With the requirements for getting a replacement number plate now needing proof of ID, all they need to do is place RFID detectors in the main road networks and then place an RFID chip in the number plate. The main roads usually have services in them anyway so a network wouldn't be too hard to implement.

That is more likely.

The only reason I can see for any system like this is to track everyday citizens. Otherwise the fuel tax is the easiest option. Why else would they bother? In fact they could track everybody like this if they include an RFID in a mandatory to carry ID card.

Seems the X-Files plot where Scully had a chip in the back of her neck is finally in the cards.

Think im being paranoid? Because, sadly, I don't.

The worst thing about all this is that those who want to evade detection will still be able to.

If any governmental official reads this I dare you to comment here. Go on, justify this. And if you say "to reduce congestion" then you tell me how increasing fuel tax won't?

Or is this the Idea? Make up as many scare stories as possible, then hit us with a massive hike in fuel tax so we think we got a good deal and killing the rest of rural England who have a crap public transport infrastructure (Im in a rural part of the country and public transport is shocking).

Yes I agree climate change is a massive problem, yes congestion needs to be resolved but I tell you, if there was an easy way to get to work I would love to molly coddle my KR1s and only use it for pleasure, and get the bus.

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Technology cannot do certain things

There are certain things that GPS can't do. Sadly for the government, track cars reliably enough for taxation is one of them. Sadly for us, this won't even register as an objection. Even perfect biometrics for ID cards can only tie a person to a document, they can make precisely zero claim for the veracity of the information linked to that document. A simple case of can't work, won't work, implemented anyway.

GPS needs a clear view of the sky, without it the position can jump markedly especially with cheaper GPS receivers. I've seen a GPS fix shift 400 yards across a river and back in a steep sided valley in a matter of seconds. That kind of error would result in at least a speeding fine or charging for being on a road I was nowhere near.

Tunnels pose an interesting problem too. Total signal blackout can cause a GPS to believe it has stopped and often not reacquire position on exiting the tunnel. I have to reset my GPS manually on the rare occasions I use the Dartford crossing tunnel. I can't see people doing that if they're going to be charged for it but I can see the government sending rescue teams into the tunnel to find all the people who went in and never came out...

It's also not just malicious interference that affects GPS, sunspots also impact accuracy. Not hugely but enough to get you charged for being 100ft away on the high toll road instead of the low toll one you're on.

Fuel duty is the only meaningful way of taxing mileage, it's extortionately high now and will get worse. Even with some meaningful investment is made in public transport, governments need to accept that frequently there is no alternative to driving at all let alone a viable one.

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Anonymous Coward

Validate the GPS mileage against MOT data

If data in the on board device was cross checked with your annual mileage during your MOT, then that would stop average Joe disabling the device.

Of course if you don't have an MOT, or you change the clocks then it won't work ;)

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Invest in divorce lawyer....

Hi,

Following earlier report, the government will send you a detailed bill every month, I suggest El Reg readers to massively invest in divorce lawyer company shares as lots of people will get caught driving when they were supposed to be "stuck at that management meeting" or sign out the detailed bill which won't make them look less suspicious to their other half (or third or quarter...).

The good side of it, it will do a lot to promote open, honest polyamory relationships (or some people might just stick to faithfull monogamous culturaly induced frustration).

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Effect on driving style

If the Govt was as concerned with road safety and traffic calming as it says it is, the satellite tracking scheme would be canned, together with the vehicle tax, and replaced with fuel tax.

The reason? By driving economically, i.e. staying within the speed limit and avoiding hard acceleration and braking, you can reduce fuel costs (and hence tax paid).

There is no equivalent method of saving on road pricing or vehicle tax.

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Simplicity.

... or, congestion could simply be solved by removing all the badly phased traffic lights, ill thought out "calming" schemes, silly junction designs, inept unlicensed drivers and broken-down buses that litter a typical drive in Britain.

Create problem, then create gigantic overengineered "solution" to problem that requires lobbing billions at your consultancy mates.

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Anonymous Coward

Why road pricing doesn't go into the fuel

There are no real arguments for road pricing not to be included in the fuel, especially because of the rather large moat surrounding the UK which stops refuelling across the border other than Ireland. Well, no, there are two:

- like with IDcards, someone stands to make an AWFUL lot of money from it - another conversion from public money into a private pocket filler. To further pursue the analogy, are those conducting the feasability study perchance also likely to get the design job? No conflict of interest then, no?

- it will again yield a club of 'consultants' that after their public life will sell themselves to the highest bidder and spread the privacy invasion it represents (US, you're next).

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Waste of money

I read somewhere that the projected cost of implementing this "solution" is in the order of £62bn. We only have 2000 miles of motorway network. If the aim is to reduce congestion, that's enough money to double the number of motorways.

I can see an awful lot of people nipping over to France or even better Ireland to buy their cars since presumably the government won't require foreign cars to be fitted with the BB box.

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Catch 22

The government is doing it's best to save the environment and stop us burning fossil fuels. So we all get nice little electric and air cars and the +-350% tax on fuel disappears. This has nothing to do with congestion!

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What better way is there...

... to get everyone to agree to an outrageous fuel tax hike than to posit the introduction of an unwieldy and unworkable technological solution: "For God's sake increase fuel tax!" everyone cries - not unreasonably considering the alternative.

I bet Brown and his cronies are loving it!

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Fuel duty

Those who think the fuel duty is enough to cover road pricing aren’t seeing the bigger picture.

The government are preparing for the day when the population switch over to electric cars - yes it will eventually happen. When it does the government will have a super-massive black hole in their finances (of course that dismisses the fact the money is wasted anyway). Road pricing will ensure a constant stream of revenue.

Martin Gregorie:

You are wrong "by staying within the speed limit and avoiding hard acceleration"

Speed limits are being continually dropped, typically to well below the speed of peak efficiency (generally 55mph). Also, hard acceleration if the most efficient way of getting power from engines; strictly speaking it's the used torque that's important (so long as it is coupled with some coasting).

Matt Kimber is on the money - that's exactly what happened in the London CC zone after it was introduced. Go figure!

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Anonymous Coward

Blind leading the blind

Don't these guys know that there are hundreds of professional people in the UK who have dedicated years to studying and practising Transport Planning?

Since when did the IET have any competence on traffic management? Or are they just the only body the Govt could find who could promise them to say its a good idea?

And for an example of why this is a Very Bad Idea, go to Germany and look at TollCollect. By trying to implement road pricing for trucks the Federal Govt could claim road tax revenues for a year. And its still not working properly several years on.

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Rob
Bronze badge

Shielding

GPS is hardly reliable... if you want to shield a GPS unit that's mounted inside your car (a-typically on the dash) then just make sure you have a windscreen with sufficient heatshield properties to help block/delay the signals, make it worse my switching on the heating and directing it at the windscreen.

Also to effectively get round the system, drive your car into a garage (no signal) modify the GPS unit with a shield (some heavy metal case that looks like the original) and the government will think your car never leaves the garage.

This GPS road taxing scheme is just yet another government idea involving technology that seems destined to fail, not unlike any other government IT project.

You want to talk about intelligent shielding, how about shielding the government from their crazy over paid technology consultants that seem to dream up useless ways of justifying their wage while wasting tax payers money.

I work in an educational institute at the moment and not one of my IT projects has involved over spending or missing it's deadline (it's not that hard), so I can quite happily sleep at night knowing I have spent your money (and mine) well.

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Silver badge

Why spoof ?

Seems to me that the good old protector of privacy - tinfoil - is once again the agent of choice. Just wrap that government-issued spy machine in a tender cocoon of tinfoil and your car will never be recorded as moving again.

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US Highway Safety (Congestion Procing) Program

If you want a detailed look at the future, Google "Vehicle to Infrastructure Interface (VII)" program, a funded Federal DOT program being prototyped as we speak.

Hamby Hutcheson

Smart-Traveler.

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