Fleet tech provider Azuga partners with RUC West to research road-usage charges for automated vehicles

TuSimple Level 4 Autonomous Truck
Azuga is working with RUC West on a one-year feasibility study on applying road-usage charges to automated vehicles. A number of companies, including TuSimple, have already launched pilot programs for autonomous Class 8 trucks. (Courtesy: TuSimple)

FREMONT, Calif. — Azuga, a provider of connected vehicle and fleet technologies, has been chosen by RUC West as the account management provider for a Road Usage Charge and Autonomous Vehicle Test that will determine the feasibility of applying road-usage charges (RUCs) to automated vehicles.

The research demonstration will analyze and validate methods for data-sharing between AV telemetry and RUC systems and address technological and administrative considerations, working in partnership with private autonomous vehicle (AV) vendors and product-design specialists. The one-year test will include a six-month pilot with AV vendors in Arizona, California and Texas, and is open to more AV volunteers across the nation.

Because modern vehicles rely increasingly less on fuel, resulting fuel-tax revenues are declining. Many states are investigating revenue alternatives, such as per-mile charges, to secure roadway longevity and expansion. RUC West is a voluntary group of 17 state departments of transportation that are committed to the study of RUC viability. The collaboration of Azuga, RUC West and other AV stakeholders will establish a smoother transition to advanced forms of revenue collection.

Automated vehicles (vehicles capable of driving without human intervention) are expected to have wide-ranging impacts on many aspects of the transportation system, including transportation funding. Many AVs will likely be electric and will not pay conventional fuel taxes. They may also generate significantly more vehicle miles traveled than the average vehicle today. Currently there is not a mechanism to fairly charge these potentially high-mileage, electric vehicles for their use of the roadway. It is likely that AVs will be deployed on more than a trial basis before road-usage charging programs have evolved into a nationally interoperable system.

“Our contribution to this project will lay the groundwork for AV businesses to intersect with RUC programs on a statewide and multi-state level,” said Nate Bryer, Azuga’s executive vice president of RUC. “It is estimated that over 1,400 driverless vehicles are on the road — with more on the way — and it’s probable that a mandatory RUC is necessary for these vehicles. Many states will need this research to move forward.”

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