FutureStructure

Vendors Testing Alternative Road Tax for California Might Offer Data to Drivers

While participating in a program designed to replace California's gasoline tax, drivers might get access to vehicle data usually offered to fleet managers.

by / March 10, 2016

When volunteers in California sign up to help the state pilot test a program to replace its gasoline tax with a road use tax, they might get some high-tech perks to go along with their participation.

That’s because the California Road Charge program, which will begin testing out its alternative tax program in July, announced via press release on Thursday that it’s selected four vendors to help track the mileage of volunteers — and three of them are already providing bonus services to fleet managers based on vehicle data.

For example, the company Azuga currently offers fleets a device they plug straight into a vehicle’s OBDII computer — a standard component in all vehicles made after 1996. Aside from automatically reporting mileage back to fleet managers, the computer is what alerts drivers to specific problems in the engine and can also offer information about what’s going on under the hood.

Two of the other companies signed up to track the mileage of participants in California’s test program, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems and EROAD, offer similar services. The fourth vendor, Arvato Mobility Solutions, will manage the accounts.

“Azuga, IMS and EROAD may … provide value added services such as vehicle health reports or driver-safety feedback at no cost to participants for the duration of the pilot,” the statement reads.

Azuga is also providing services to volunteers in a similar pilot test underway in Oregon.

The road charge program is designed as an alternative to the state’s current gas tax, which provides funding for road maintenance and other transportation projects. Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 2016-17 budget shows that the revenue from the gas tax has dropped from $5.3 billion in fiscal 2014 to $4.5 billion in fiscal 2015. In the coming fiscal year, it’s projected to bring in $4.2 billion — about a 21 percent drop from 2014.

Meanwhile, the state is devoting money and resources toward bringing down gasoline usage even further. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development has staff devoted to building out the infrastructure required to support the adoption of electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars, and it has a budget up to $220 million per year for boosting those efforts.

The long-term plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. That would mean much less gasoline use, and therefore an ever-shrinking base of revenue for the state to fund transportation projects.

The road use charge pilot program will seek to begin testing in July with 5,000 volunteers and run through the spring of 2017.