There are approximately 195 million drivers in the United States, ~20% of whom receive at least one traffic violation fine each year. Those fines generate around $6 billion in annual revenue for states and municipalities. As autonomous vehicles (AVs) become more widespread, how will these driverless cars—that make fewer mistakes and incur fewer fines—affect this significant source of revenue? The latest Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, How will State Motor Vehicle Violation Fines be Impacted by Widespread Use of Autonomous Vehicles?, explores this question and others—like how could we fund roadway infrastructure with fewer fines?
AVs are designed to be safe, eliminating human error in many cases. AVs are programmed to obey traffic signals, prevent tailgating and speeding, and other traffic offenses. And while AVs have been shown to improve safety and increase mobility, a large portion of government funding comes from fines and violation fees issued by states, cities, and localities from regular vehicles with human drivers who are much more likely to make errors.
From these human errors, state departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) collect significant funds, millions or billions depending on the state—often even more than needed to cover the agency’s expenditures. For example, the Florida DMV budget for the fiscal year 2019–20 was $487.3M, yet the department collected $2.10B. This DMV revenue contributes about 2% to Florida’s total state budget. A similar situation holds for many other states, where the DMV’s revenue (which includes infraction collection) makes up around 0–3% of the overall state budget. In many instances, the infraction money that the DMV collects is among the state’s top ten revenue sources.
With autonomous vehicles either greatly reducing or eliminating these funds from their balance sheets, states will have to look elsewhere to make up for revenue loss. It is important that states and cities look beyond streets, highways, and sidewalk infrastructure. They will also need to do a significant review of their traffic and driving fees and fines and start to strategize from where the new streams of revenue will come, including drafting new violations that take AV features into account.
“States would do well to appoint advisory groups to prepare for the impact of the widespread use of autonomous vehicles. This preparation should begin with canvassing resident populations for concerns, cares, and expectations; such a step would help inform jurisdictional priorities,” explains author Selika Josiah Talbott.
As autonomous vehicles become ubiquitous in the near future, DMVs and state budgets will have to adjust to the shift in fines and the resulting revenue. By beginning to acknowledge and navigate this shift now, they can begin to identify new sources of revenue and not impede the future of transportation and a safer, more connected nation.
MTI will host a 30-minute webinar discussing this research on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10a.m. To register for this #MTIResearchSnap visit https://tinyurl.com/AVfines422.
ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE
At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Selika Josiah Talbott, J.D. is an MTI Research Associate and Professorial Lecturer at American University in Washington, DC. She is currently researching and educating on autonomous vehicle policy, impacts on governments, OEMs and stakeholder communities. Selika was formerly the Deputy Administrator for the State of New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission in charge of all Operations for state services, the Director of Field Operations for the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and has over 18 years’ experience as an attorney litigator.
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