Some cash-strapped states are considering taxing self-driving cars as they look for ways to replace revenue lost from gas tax collections that have dwindled as cars have become more fuel efficient.
State lawmakers in Massachusetts have introduced legislation that would impose a 2.5 cents-per-mile tax on self-driving cars. A similar measure that would establish a 1 cent-per-mile fee for self-driving cars, and a 2.6 cent-per-mile fee for autonomous trucks that have more than two axles has been approved by the state Senate in Tennessee.
At the federal level, the independent Eno Center for Transportation think tank in Washington has proposed a penny-per-mile fee on automakers for self-driving cars when they are operating in autonomous mode. The idea has been endorsed by at least one former U.S. transportation secretary.
Paul Lewis, vice president of policy and finance for the Eno Center, said the proposal to tax automakers for self-driving car operation could raise up to $300 million per year that could be used to help pay for badly needed road improvements in the U.S. and make up for gas tax revenue that will be lost as automakers move toward autonomous and electric cars.
“Self-driving cars tend to be very fuel-efficient, and a lot of automakers have talked about how they are going to be all-electric,” Lewis said. “That means they are imposing the same type of wear and tear on roadways without paying into the system.”
Michigan has taken steps to position itself as a haven for self-driving car testing: The state Legislature passed into law last year a measure that allows robotic cars to be operated on any Michigan road without a driver behind the wheel. Jeff Cranson, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said there has no been no talk of implementing a self-driving fee at the state level.
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