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Wednesday, 21 May 2014 12:43

Driverless cars could kill local government revenue

Written by Nick Farrell

What if there were no speeding motorists

Over the pond a debate is starting about the state of local government finances if driverless cars are introduced.

In the US local government has bolstered its cash strapped revenues by using speeding tickets to increase revenue. However autonomous cars will stick to the speed limit. The argument is similar to that which was voiced when the state of Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Someone pointed out that coppers would lose a fortune from seized assets, property, and cash from pot dealers in the state.

The money was considerable. More than a $1 billion was made from 2002 to 2012. One drug task force, reduced its budget forecast by 15% after the state voted to legalize marijuana. Of course while it was not having to arrest people for victimless crimes it did not need to spend so much either.

So far, Google’s driverless cars have now combined to drive more than 700,000 miles on public roads without receiving one ticket.

Google has said the company that designed the car should pay the fine which means that there is no way that a driverless car would break the speed limit. Google hinted at a future where local and state governments will have to operate without a substantial source of revenue.

How much are we talking about? More than 41 million people receive speeding tickets in the US every year, paying out more than $6.2 billion per year. That means that for each traffic cop there is more than $300,000 gathered speeding ticket revenue. In fact, in the US there is a trend towards cops increasing their ticket-writing efforts in order to help spike revenue. Therefore, if a county cop shop received a budget cut it would make up the shortfall with more tickets.

Fortunately for them, it appears that fully driverless cars are unlikely to take off. It is more likely that we will see cars with a form of autopilot. The belief is that people will not completely want to give up control yet.

Nick Farrell

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