Letters: Driverless Vehicles; New Highway Taxes?

These Letters to the Editor appears in the June 1 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Driverless Vehicles: Proceed With Caution

The analyst in the Bloomberg News story, “Driverless Vehicles May Cut US Auto Sales by 40%, Analyst Says,” evidently assumed that autonomous vehicles would have to travel farther to account for deadhead miles to get to and from each person being served. He then assumed that a single vehicle would serve multiple persons.

If this were the case, the vehicle would be accumulating mileage at a rate that is much greater than the rate is for today’s vehicles. Today, vehicles are scrapped at an average age of 17 years with an average accumulation of about 170,000 miles. If the fleet were accumulating significantly more miles on significantly fewer vehicles, the vehicles would need to last many more miles for there not to be a much higher turnover, which would offset the smaller fleet size and lessen or even reverse the argued reduction in sales.

Unless one assumes that the vehicle doesn’t wear out proportionally to miles accumulated, the autonomous vehicle would need to be replaced far more frequently. If a vehicle were in shared service it would generally have to perform at a higher reliability standard than a privately owned vehicle and is likely to be replaced as often, or more often, than in the current environment to mitigate liability issues.

Additionally, users of these shared vehicles should consider weather emergencies. For example, if a hurricane is predicted to hit Florida and folks are encouraged to evacuate, which ones get to use the limited fleet of autonomous vehicles?

Rapidly evolving automated technologies might also require more frequent replacements to avoid technological obsolescence. One could quite easily argue that the additional miles accumulated on vehicles running empty between passenger trips and the high-performance standards required for safe operation would result in greater vehicle sales, even though the size of the fleet might be lower.

I would encourage the analyst to rethink and recalculate his supposition. It is fun to speculate on the influence of autonomous vehicles, but caution should be used regarding speculative effects.

Steven E. Polzin

Mobility Policy Research Director,

Center for Urban

Transportation Research

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

New Highway Taxes?

As someone working in the trucking industry, I would like to see a study of where money that is taxed for infrastructure goes right now.

The Heavy-Use Tax is $550 per truck. How many trucks are on the road? Estimates range between 1.5 million and 2 million tractor-trailers in the United States. That adds up to an estimated $110 billion in HUT alone.

Additionally, there are International Fuel Tax Agreement taxes, International Registration Plan taxes that average $1,100 per truck; commercial driver license fees and state-specific taxes. Also, many states have fees for permits necessary to haul heavy, oversize loads on certain roads.

Now add in the tax per gallon paid at the pump.

I cannot see the need to increase taxes because, who can say it will go to infrastructure repairs if no one can say where those taxes go now? And looking at the roads, it does not appear that the previously mentioned taxes and fees are being used to improve them.

Janice Harris

Janice’s Office Works

& Dispatching

Carthage, Texas