One way to pay for infrastructure: Tax autonomous vehicles
Some states are exploring the possibility of taxing autonomous vehicles (AVs) to recoup the lost revenue from gas taxes as cars become more fuel-efficient. A federal transportation think-tank has also endorsed the idea.
Massachusetts legislators have introduced a bill levying a 2.5 cent tax per mile driven by autonomous vehicles. The Tennessee state Senate has passed a similar measure. In Washington, D.C., the Eno Center for Transportation, an independent think-tank, says that Congress should develop a per-mile charge fee system.
Automakers have said that AVs will be very fuel-efficient and in many cases all-electric, Paul Lewis, vice president of policy and finance for the Eno Center for Transportation, told the Detroit News. That means those cars will use the roads just as much as traditional cars that pay a gas tax, but AVs will not pay for their use.
The gas tax has not covered the cost of road repairs for many years, and the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents has not been raised since 1993. To pay for even the subpar shape of the nationês current infrastructure, Congress must transfer funds every year from another part of the budget a continuing resolution, stop gap measure that helps explain why so much repair is needed.
Mary Peters, transportation secretary under George W. Bush, has also endorsed a tax on AVs. Up-to-date and well-maintained infrastructure is not only important for all road users, but also essential for successful deployment of self-driving cars, she wrote in The Hill. Peters then proposed that owners of fleets of autonomous vehicles, rather than individual users, would pay the tax. Fleet owners will likely charge AV users per mile or per trip, so adding a modest tax would not be difficult.
The bottom line: Funds must somehow be found to pay for infrastructure. And no one is holding their breath waiting for President Trump or Congress to act.Download Bulletin PDF