In 2007, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $5,000,000 for a technology research project exploring mileage-based user fees (MBUF). The Minnesota DOT (Mn/DOT) was tasked with leading the effort of executing a pilot project to demonstrate technologies that would allow for the eventual replacement of the gas tax with a cost-neutral mileage charge.
The objective of the Minnesota Road Fee Test (MRFT) was to inform future public policy decisions regarding mileage-based user fees and connected vehicle applications. To accomplish this, Mn/DOT utilized a commercially available after-market device and a smartphone to assess mileage-based user fees.
Drivers generally saw the potential of the in-vehicle safety alerts, but disliked the presence of non-revenue features in the test. Results indicated that adding or offering these features once the public has accepted a base MBUF program would yield the highest acceptance of both technologies.
Respondents generally disliked the audible signage alerts but felt they were useful for drivers in general, emphasizing a common statement made by participants when discussing the safety alerts: "I do not need this feature, but I could see how others would." Participants who did not find the safety signage application useful felt drivers should be paying attention to the road and should see the traffic control devices instead of paying attention to the smartphone or that the feature was a nuisance as they were already familiar with the traffic control devices in the area.
Participants had several suggestions for improving the in-vehicle safety signage and alert systems that may be helpful in the development of future systems. These suggestions included:
- Provide an option to disable or modify when and where visual safety alerts are displayed.
- Include an option to disable visual safety alerts from being displayed in specific zones after a set number of trips through that zone. Participants felt the alerts were more useful in unfamiliar areas.
- Design system with advanced warning of speed zones to provide drivers with adequate time to slow down and adhere to posted speed limits instead of just providing a warning as they enter a speed zone.
- Disable school zone alerts during hours when children are not present.
- Provide ability to customize audible alerts to a tone and volume matching personal preference.