Toyota: States Should Wait to Enact Driverless Car Fee Laws

By Stephanie Beasley

State lawmakers should think twice before passing legislation that would tax owners of self-driving cars, one of Toyota’s top technology officials said.

Hilary Cain, Toyota Motor North America Inc.’s director of technology and innovation policy, warned states against enacting legislation aimed specifically at taxing driverless cars, during a Feb. 22 briefing on autonomous cars hosted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Some states are beginning to prepare for the possibility that automated car owners could avoid traditional vehicle taxes such as the motor fuel taxes that support the Highway Trust Fund. The majority of driverless cars are expected to be electric. Autonomous vehicle users also could have their cars drive around instead of paying parking fees.

A bill was introduced in the Massachusetts Senate last month that would charge driverless car owners 2.5 cents for every mile driven, to offset the loss of other car-related fees. Cain said such laws could have a chilling effect on the industry.

“I don’t think that’s the greatest approach, especially if you’re trying to incentivize deployment,” she said.

Hopes for New Direction

Driverless car manufacturers like Toyota, General Motors, Ford and Google have raised concerns about the development of a “patchwork” of state laws on driverless car operation and testing. Cain said it would be preferable to have clear and uniform federal regulations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued industry guidance and model state policy for autonomous vehicles last year, but has not yet developed formal rules.

CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said he was heartened to hear Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao discuss some of the challenges caused by states trying to develop driverless car laws ahead of federal regulators during her Senate confirmation hearing in January.

Having different standards in every state just won’t work, Shapiro said.

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