Dori: Goodbye, privacy — Washington state considers tracking your driving

Dec 17, 2021, 5:03 AM | Updated: 11:26 am
telematics, driving...
Feature of Mercedes AMG GT 63 S dashboard. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robert Hradil/Getty Images)

Nearly 20 years ago, a source inside Washington state government told me that within two decades, the Puget Sound Transportation Commission had plans to make every single inch of every single road in our region a toll road. My source was solid.

When I reported this, people responded, “Oh, come on, Monson. You’re full of … hyperbole.”

But just this week, KIRO Radio’s own traffic reporter Chris Sullivan reported on a Washington State Transportation Commission meeting where a pay-by-mile or road usage charge (RUC) system is under review. And one system could track your driving round-the-clock.

Unlike the self-reporting systems tested in this area several years ago, the transportation commission is now looking at telematics. This involves your newer vehicle automatically sending data about your driving habits to its manufacturer. It’s a practice most newer vehicle owners don’t even know is already happening.

Now, the commission is considering proposals to the state Legislature that would involve having automakers send that data directly to the state. No GPS needed. Your car would automatically tell on you.

Newer, smarter vehicles could do this. Older vehicles could not.

“They (new smart vehicles) have a chip that already sends back data (to the automaker), whether you want it or not,” Sullivan explained. “Your weight. Where you go. Your speed. Your driving habits. All of those things can be mined. Your car would be the transmitter.”

Options in the pilot project from a few years ago proposed charging vehicle owners 2.4 cents per mile. Dori fears that price could be inflated for popular routes – like those into downtown Seattle — or during rush hours.

“They (lawmakers) say they’re interested in miles, not where you go – but this could be a Pandora’s box,” Sullivan acknowledged.

Listen to Dori’s complete interview with KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan:

Read Chris Sullivan’s report about possible road usage charge systems in Washington.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dori Monson on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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Dori: Goodbye, privacy — Washington state considers tracking your driving