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.
The lessons below were summarized from more detailed information provided in the source report.
Plan to resolve issues with data collection and equipment reliability.
- Reliability of the smartphone as an in-vehicle device was an issue. Poor GPS function was a contributing factor in 31 percent of trips where no trip data was collected.
- Unstable voltage at the vehicle’s power port interfered with collection of valid trip start and stop data.
- Nearly 10 percent of participants indicated the smartphone device recorded more miles than the vehicle odometer.
Review best practices for data management and security across agencies and industry. Participants generally did not believe the state would misuse the data, but participants wanted assurance that data would be protected from entities who might seek to misuse it.
Implement simple payment mechanisms. A commercial off the shelf device or smartphone application would enable the greatest, fastest access to an MBUF program by the public, but would also increase the number of manufacturers and devices requiring technical support from the administering agency.
Enable online access to technical support. Online access to user agreements with outlines of these agreements will facilitate drivers’ understanding of documentation. While participants generally understood the features of their devices, they commonly required additional technical support to fully understand how the system worked.