Massachusetts to minimize zombie cars with a self-driving tax

In the future, cars will spend a lot less of their time idle in a parking space. Owners will be able to send their cars around the block hundreds of times to avoid parking costs, send it on errands for the family or even rent the car to a ridesharing service.

This new explosion of time spent on the road will create congestion chaos, according to Massachusetts state senator Jason Lewis. The senator introduced a bill to the state senate aimed at tackling the rise of the zombie car; a flat 2.5 cent per mile tax on all self-driving vehicles.

See also: Panasonic debuts their own autonomous car concept

The tax, Lewis claims, may force drivers to think twice about sending their autonomous vehicle around the block for hours. It also provides Massachusetts with a way to offset the loss of gasoline tax, which is currently higher than 2.5 cent per mile.

The bill would also require all self-driving vehicles to be fully electric.

Lewis said the rate per mile could change depending on if a human is inside the vehicle, how congested an area is, and what the parking situation is like.

Will it scare tech away from Bay State?

Some have argued that the bill will scare auto and tech firms away from Massachusetts, with some planning to launch autonomous ridesharing services in the next few years. A flat tax rate on electric cars might also be seen as a way to slow down the move to zero-emissions vehicles, as it removes some of the cost benefit of owning an electric vehicle.

Cybersecurity is mentioned in the bill, Lewis says that hackers must not be able to track a self-driving car and take over control of the vehicle. Google’s self-driving division, Waymo, is already making moves to ensure this is not possible.

The self-driving industry is still very young, so laws like this are certainly subject to change as we begin to figure out how the market will work for customers. Ford, Tesla, and General Motors are signalling a move from car ownership to a rent or ridesharing model.

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