Autonomous vehicles continue to gather media headlines as the industry promises a highly desirable future consisting of drastically reduced vehicle accident rates, congestion, and road emissions. While these impacts and the potential effects on the insurance industry are often discussed at length, less attention has been given to how autonomous vehicles may affect government budgets—particularly law enforcement.
As a prime example, autonomous vehicles simply do not drive faster than posted speed limits. Google’s driverless vehicles have logged more 1 million miles autonomously without receiving a single citation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average cost of a speeding ticket in the United States is $152, and about 41 million people receive a citation each year. This amounts to a staggering $6.23 billion in potentially lost state and local government revenue each year due to autonomous vehicles. Additionally, autonomous vehicles do not run red lights or drive under the influence of any substances, eliminating two other significant sources of revenue for government services.
What About Parking?
And then there’s parking; New York City alone generated $534 million in parking ticket revenue in 2013. How autonomous vehicles may affect the business of parking revenue is much less clear than other sources of traffic violation revenue. Navigant Research expects parking to be an area remaining far more in consumers’ hands compared to highway and even city driving, at least in the near term. Nevertheless, the on-demand nature of autonomous vehicle fleets is expected to reduce personal vehicle ownership over time, and thus the need for parking is expected to decrease, as well. If large numbers of people are using smartphone apps such as Uber to summon autonomous vehicles, parking demand and usage should decrease, which in turn is expected to lead to a significant loss in parking ticket revenue. The extent to which this may happen is unclear thus far.
Revenue Reduction Offset by Reduced Costs?
Conversely, autonomous vehicles may also reduce costs for government, somewhat negating the loss in revenue streams. The NHTSA has stated that 7% of vehicle crashes are paid for with public revenue. This annual taxpayer bill of roughly $10 billion is used for emergency services, property damage, court costs, and other expenses. Autonomous vehicles could drastically reduce or nearly eliminate the 5.6 million accidents occurring annually in the United States, saving local and state governments enormously on expenditures. Reduced demand for parking in densely populated urban areas may also free up land that could be utilized for either residential or commercial development, which could provide a new source of jobs, housing, and tax revenue.
Whether autonomous vehicles will ultimately end up saving governments money or reducing their budgets is unclear. What is clear, however, is that a future where citizens spend little or no money on traffic violations and everyone saves enormously on vehicle crashes and fatalities is a future worth pursuing.
Tags: Autonomous Vehicles, Natural Gas Vehicles and Infrastructure, Smart Parking, Transportation Efficiencies
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