BusinessWeek has a writeup on Celldar, a technology advance that uses Cellular frequencies as a form of passive
radar that can be used to track objects such as cars, trucks, and boats using low-cost equipment, regardless of whether any individuals are carrying cell phones.
The world where you have some relative annonymity in your movements, if it still exists, is dwindling fast.
And it might support schemes by Oregon and other states regarding “pay-for-use” road taxes. Many transportation experts assert that taxing actual driving distances would be a more equitable way of funding highway upkeep than today’s tax on gasoline and diesel fuels. That’s why the European Commission wants every vehicle in Europe to be fitted by 2010 with a black-box device that can be tracked by satellite. Germany is now testing such a system on trucks, and Britain plans to require it on trucks by 2006.
Besides all the obvious privacy issues raised by the technology, I gave some thought to the issue raised above about gasoline taxes as opposed to a direct “road use” tax. The advantage of taxing road use directly is that it correlates well with the consumption of the road as a resource. However, what I appreciate about gasoline taxes is that it can accomplish two goals. It is a rough approximation of how much a driver uses roads, since there is a correlation between miles driven and fuel consumed. And it also rewards those who give thought to fuel economy, by providing a tax break by way of achieving a further distance by using less fuel. Switching to a direct “road-use” tax eliminates or greatly reduces this indirect tax benefit for purchasing a more fuel-efficient vehicle.