Automated Measure to Reduce Usage of Privately Owned Cars in Cities

The premise of personal mobility from the 1950s onwards has been the individually owned car to realise an unconstrained freedom to go anywhere, any time. Cities were consequently designed for and around cars with sub-urban sprawl as a consequence, too. Now mankind realises that there are a few issues with that assumption. First, the approach is not scalable as if everybody exercises the freedom to go anywhere any time by car, limitations to this very freedom ensue in the form of traffic jams; the result is much less freedom. Second, the approach is not sustainable given the energy needs and carbon emissions, in particular for large vehicles competing for space.

That being said, the situation has to be rectified, possibly with market forces installed in order to reinstate a balance, take externalities into account, reduce the number of cars and eventually, through human-friendly urban planning, reduce the number of miles travelled. Here I would like to propose a metric and an automated mechanism for a levy on vehicles in urban environments as an incentive to reduce the usage of those privately owned cars in cities. This system would be introduced gradually with the objective to shift the use of cars to shared mobility and multi-modal transports, including cycle path networks and public forms of transport such as trains, trams and buses. The revenue from that levy can be used towards those goals.

Vehicle usage tax

Tax for vehicle usage per day as a function of the vehicle mass and volume against a reference.

The reference mass and volume can be obtained from a statistical distribution, e.g. the median or 25 percentile. A reasonable reference for me as a European is a Volkswagen Golf with around 1200kg and 11 cubic meter extent. Note, that here I did not include the energy consumption or carbon emission as I think they are proportional to the fuel consumption; for vehicles powered by fossil fuels a tax should be levied at the pump or upstream.

Automated invoice mechanism

Information flow in automated invoicing for city driving as a function vehicle make and occupancy.

Example cars and proposed levy

The result is that small cars would cost a fraction of £1 per day in the city (green), between £1–5 for compact cars (white), £5–10 for larger saloons (light yellow), £10-£20 for medium sized SUVs (yellow) and £20 and above for large SUVs (orange). For instance, driving a child to school every day using a large SUV would cost in the order of £2000 per annum. Given this levy one would hope that cars in the city, in particular large SUVs, will become fewer and smaller again as well as used in a shared manner, or mobility would transform to using public transport services such as:

Works on the technological foundations of autonomous vehicles at Five, UK. Interested in personal mobility, renewable energy and regenerative agriculture.