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IBM Patents Pricing Motorists Off Highways

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the prior-art-stuck-at-the-tollbooth dept.

Patents 805

theodp writes "Self-professed patent reformer IBM snagged a patent Tuesday for the Variable Rate Toll System, which covers the rather anti-egalitarian scheme of pricing motorists off of the roads by raising tolls as congestion increases. 'Congestion pricing of traffic is emerging as a completely new services market for IBM,' boasted Jamie Houghton, IBM's Global Leader for Road Charging."

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805 comments

Genius! (4, Insightful)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141324)

Now there's a way to simulate the sagging economy! Have them pay more for commuting to work!

There's an essential flaw in this plan. (3, Insightful)

Pommpie (710718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141486)

People don't drive into rush hour congestion because they like sitting around in their car waiting for lights to turn green. They drive into rush hour congestion because they have places to go, and because if you can avoid it, public transit is by and by large garbage. Congestion charging won't stop people from driving into work so they can save a few bucks by climbing onto a cramped bus next to the homeless people, in the same way that rising fuel prices hasn't led to the abandonment of automotive or airplane travel. There's nothing inherently wrong with just trying to grab the cash. What's immoral is trying to hide it beneath a thin veneer of social engineering. If a government wants to yank up additional revenue by gouging commuting in the same way it gouges everything else, then at least have the balls to be straightforward about it.

Re:There's an essential flaw in this plan. (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141718)

I have more faith in human ingenuity than you - people will carpool.

Screw carpools (3, Insightful)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141824)

Carpools? I won't join a carpool. If I wanted to be around other people while commuting, I'd take the bus. I don't get nearly enough time alone, and my 20 minute drive to work is one of the times I have alone with my thoughts (such as they are). Why should I give that up?

Re:There's an essential flaw in this plan. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141724)

Yes, people have places to go, but the economic market of road transportation is /broken/ because the costs of commuting decisions do not reflect the true costs of those choices. Pricing fixes the market and therefore leads to a more reliable and sustainable transportation system. The result is that mass transit and other solutions become economically competitive with the use of a private vehicle. It won't happen overnight---because the necessary changes to the transportation system and urban form take time---but it will happen.

The alternative, in any sufficiently dense urban center, is congestion.

Re:Genius! (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141506)

On the other hand, it strikes me that parking has long been this way; in many places, on weekdays you must feed the meter, but at night and on weekends it's free.

Re:Genius! (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141858)

On the other hand, it strikes me that parking has long been this way; in many places, on weekdays you must feed the meter, but at night and on weekends it's free.

Everything has long been this way. The summary suggests that IBM are trying to patent the demand curve. If on the other hand they'd found a cool new algorithm to set the prices, maybe that would be worth something (haven't read the article, btw).

Re:Genius! (1)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141672)

I don't think they want to stimulate anything other than their income.

Also, a trillion dollar hooker couldn't stiffen this sagging economy.

Re:Genius! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141730)

If companies responded by not having everyone start work at the same time, this would stimulate the economy. Maybe putting a monetary value on congestion will make it more obvious to businesses that its worthwhile to avoid it.

IBM will never make money on this (1)

VampireByte (447578) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141758)

They are a leader in outsourcing jobs to other countries. Soon there will be no jobs in the U.S. and therefore no commuting.

motorists being forced off the road and into buses (1)

hachete (473378) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141326)

GOOD. That's the whole point of congestion charges. I am a motorist

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (0)

LordSkippy (140884) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141528)

Because only the rich should be allowed to use the roads

/sarcasm

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (1)

doombringerltx (1109389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141792)

Oh God I know. Only those rich fat cats will be able to afford the huge sums of money those toll boths will demand. Oh think of it, it might peak out to a ungodly amount like a dollar. Maybe those capitalist pig dogs will demand two. Oh the humanity.

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141854)

$2 each way = $4 a day
$4 a day = $20 a week
$20 a week = $1000 a year

That's $1000 a year less than you would have to spend normally.

A lot of little things add up to one big thing.

So kindly have a cup of shut the fuck up, unless you enjoy watching the middle-class driven to extinction.

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141538)

Ugh. If that's what you think, reduce congestion by getting on the bus now because I certainly don't want to end up sitting next to you.

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141564)

It is good if the public transportation is:
1. reliable
2. reasonably quick
3. reasonably accessible
I am not saying that it is not. but those conditions must be met before attempting to reduce number of individually driven vehicles. i.e. provide an alternative before taking away the predominant means of transportation.

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (1)

brusk (135896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141668)

On the other hand, creating a disincentive to driving can help create a market for superior public transportation. Many places have good public transit, in part, because the hassle and expense of driving--and parking--is too great.

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (4, Insightful)

ktappe (747125) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141692)

motorists being forced off the road and into buses. GOOD. That's the whole point of congestion charges. I am a motorist
There are no buses or trains or any other mass transit anywhere near where I live and commute from. Give me the mass transit before you start charging me for not using it (and acting holier than thou.)

Re:motorists being forced off the road and into bu (4, Insightful)

Snowgen (586732) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141750)

motorists being forced off the road and into buses

You know, I would love to take public transportation to work. I mean really love it. The hour I spend in my car driving to and from work every day would suddenly be converted from "chore time" to "me time". I could read a book. I could watch a movie on my iPod. I could even do some work on my laptop, if I was feeling generous to my employer.

But the it seems to me that the truth is that "they" (the public transportation authority) really don't want me to ride the bus. Why do I say this? Let me tell you.

The nearest bus stop to my house is 2 miles away. The nearest bus stop to my work is 1 mile away. That's 3 miles in the morning and 3 miles in the afternoon. I just happen to walk at about 3 miles per hour, so now my 60 minutes of daily commuting time has now turned into 2 hours of commuting time just to walk to the bus stops and back.

But it gets better. According to the online "plan your trip" schedule, they pick me up at the bus stop, then there is a layover (oops, transfer) as I wait for another bus to take me to work. Total rode-and-wait one-way time to work: 3 hours! Coming home at night is a bit better, at only 1.5 hours.

So my 60 minutes of daily commute is now a whopping total of 5.5 hours! As if that wasn't enough, due to the times the buses run I can only work a 6 hour day. On top of all this, I have to pay!

So, yes, I'd love to take public transoprtation. Too bad there's no such thing, practically speaking, where I live.

Buses SUCK (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141782)

I would rather not share the road with large public buses. Transportation on that scale should more properly be served by light, safe monorails, which would retrofit easily into most suburban neighborhoods. Unfortunately, economical solutions which do not divert the maximum tax money to the private sector are impossible to implement in The Land Of The Free. Perhaps someone could skew -er publish some data of concern: "CHILDREN CRUSHED BENEATH THE WHEELS", or something. A little late for this Election Cycle, any takers for next time?

How to beat IBM here... (0)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141352)

Don't live near any toll roads. Yet another asset of not living or working in a big city or up North.

Re:How to beat IBM here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141512)

I really don't know were people got this idea that IBM is a nice company. Few other companies bullies other companies as much as they do and few companies has more "fake" patents as they do.

Re:How to beat IBM here... (1)

Moonpie Madness (764217) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141556)

Dude, I wish.

Austin, one of IBM's big towns, has got tolls running all over the place now. Why in the hell, in Texas, rich oil state with lots of land, do we need tolls? Highways are critical to Texas. We have this bizarre guy, Rick Perry, who refuses to have the government pay for the most legitimate thing government can pay for! Roads! Why? Because he can get us to pay tolls. Why do we pay tolls? Because we need these roads very badly. Which is actually proof that the government ought to fund them.

Instead, the state is paying for all sorts of crap. What a load of crap.

anyway, I wish tolls were a Yankee phenom, but us hicks seem to be following their example.

Re:How to beat IBM here... (1)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141726)

Out of curiosity, what's your basis for calling roads "the most legitimate thing government can pay for"?

Try to give an answer that doesn't boil down to "I personally don't use many of the other things that government pays for."

Re:How to beat IBM here... (4, Funny)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141816)

Out of curiosity, what's your basis for calling roads "the most legitimate thing government can pay for"?

Jesus! Eisenhower's gonna rise up out of his grave and slap the stupid out of you.

Re:How to beat IBM here... (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141634)

Or you can always learn to read a map and find alternate routes. Between things like google maps and relatively cheap GPS handsets, there's no excuse not to know how to plan a route around congestion.

Actually, that'd work as a business idea for certain cities. You could semi-automate your route planning, and work around the congested areas that the local traffic stations report, then transfer the data to a GPS set in the car for folks when they're going to work, complete with suggestions for alternate routes. 'd be a fun job.

Re:How to beat IBM here... (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141790)

Actually the systems being proposed would eliminate the tax on fuel (about $0.60 - $0.80 gallon if memory serves)and have every vehicle or driver carry something akin to an EZPASS, SUNPASS, etcPASS that would charge you for how much driving you do instead of how much gas you buy. It wouldn't be limited to toll roads so avoiding toll roads wouldn't help much. Time to put on the tinfoil car cover.

anti-egalitarian? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141356)

It is egalitarian if everyone is surcharged equally based on traffic peak times.

And this seems to be as much the rage amongst liberal urban planners as evil corporatists.

Re:anti-egalitarian? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141674)

This is a tax. Flat dollar rates for taxes are NOT egalitarian, percentages of income are.

A ten dollar per head tax is regressive. A ten percent tax per head is egalitarian. Personally, I'd like to see gasoline taxes based on a) the cost of the vehicle, b) the size of the vehicle (larger vehicles tear up the roads more) and c) the mileage of the vehicle. If you're driving a beater you should pay less than a new car, a new SUV you should get the shit taxed out of you, if you're driving a hybrid you should get a break.

Better yet, how about getting rid of tolls, excise taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes, and just tax income? While you're at it, how about taxing capital gains at the same rate that working stiffs' income is taxed? Income should be income. It galls me that someone who "earns" money by sitting on his ass collecting interest or selling stock (capital gains is from selling assets) is taxed at a lower rathe than I am.

Oddly, my latest journal [slashdot.org] is kinda on-topic for this comment; at least, a digression within the journal is. The said journal deals with my hot babe roommate that won't fuck me, economics, religion, a needle-junkie hooker, and her crackhead pimp. Family fun!

-mcgrew

Tax ownership (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141776)

How about not taxing income at all? It favors the already wealthy, and helps keep the less wealthy from becoming wealthy. How about taxing ownership only. The more you own, the greater percentage of your net worth you have to pay. Helps stop the runaway feedback loop of wealth generating more wealth, regardless of whether the wealth owner even works at it.

Re:anti-egalitarian? (1)

snarkh (118018) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141842)

This is a tax. Flat dollar rates for taxes are NOT egalitarian, percentages of income are.

Reinventing the definition?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egalitarianism [wikipedia.org]

Egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level) is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals from birth. Generally it applies to being held equal under the law, the church, and society at large.


A ten dollar per head tax is regressive. A ten percent tax per head is egalitarian.


Progressive/regressive has nothing to do with elitarian/egalitarian.

fail. (1)

pxlmusic (1147117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141358)

Yeah, because apparently my government doesn't think that it costs me enough to drive (even with my efficient Japanese car) fail.

Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (4, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141362)

As congestion increases, tolls increase, so more people, instead of traveling on toll roads designed to take the kind of abuse that volume and congestions provide, begin taking surface streets which are not designed for these kinds of volume.

So the toll makes out even, or slightly ahead at best. While the tax payers have to pick up the tab to repair the surface streets that are now getting heavier traffic because of increased pricing on toll roads.

So people with money get to work faster, and people with out will get taxed more. Sounds like a great idea.

-Rick

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141460)

If the money gathered goes into improving transport links, then everyone wins. It's better than taxing the crap out of everyone to help out the rich. If people could get out of their cars and into a more efficient transport solution, then that would be even better.

Shut the fuck up (0, Troll)

nunyadambinness (1181813) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141518)

"So people with money get to work faster, and people with out will get taxed more."

No, and framing the issue that way doesn't make you right, it makes you a liar.

EVERYONE will get taxed more liar, as it should be. People with who use the toll roads don't get to forget about the surface streets, they get to pay for those AS WELL AS the tolls they normally pay.

Stop trying so hard to manufacture a reason for the "people with out" to get upset, your attempt was transparent, wrong and massively stupid.

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141524)

It's funny how selfish people can be. It seems to be that making the overall system more efficient is good for society, and everyone should support it. Nobody likes driving on a crowded road, but it doesn't make sense to charge people more than necessary when the road is empty. Supply and Demand is a basic concept, and applying it to crowded roads makes sense. If more people take other roads, double-up in cars, take the bus, or train, etc. - as the original poster said, GOOD.

Road travel is (economically speaking) vastly underpriced in this country anyway, which contributes to the poor public transit systems.

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141644)

Except people can't choose not to use the roads. If they need to drive to work, they need to drive to work. They can't change their hours to go in off peak time, or many of them would have already. Tolls are just a money grab. If the state needs money, raise gas taxes and upper bracket income taxes instead. A few years ago California implemented a 1% tax on anyone making over 1 million, that kind of idea would make the need for tolls go completely away in many cases.

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (2, Informative)

keithjr (1091829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141562)

So people with money get to work faster, and people with out will get taxed more. Sounds like a great idea.

Incorrect. The people without money, and also the sensible people, will start taking public transportation. The elitists in the equation are actually the people who continue to drive regardless of the negative reinforcement. And they can pay all they want.

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141844)

Wow, what a leap of deductive reasoning. Lets take a look at that.

1) Tax the @#$% out of drivers who must get to work in order to PAY THE @#$% TAX.
2) Buses magically reroute to shuttle people conveniently around suburban areas.
3) People take the buses.

Yep, sounds great to me.

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (5, Insightful)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141860)

Incorrect. The people without money, and also the sensible people, will start taking public transportation.

Depends on where you live. There are large cities in the USA that have very poor public transportation. At a former job one of my co-workers was a "flower child" from the 60s and although she had a car, she usually took public transportation to our office. I'd say she could have driven to work in 30-40 minutes most days and driven home in roughly the same time frame. Riding the bus took between 90 minutes and 2 hours each way. While it's certainly cheaper to ride the bus, most rational people would conclude that saving 50-90 minutes each way by driving instead of riding the bus made a lot more sense.

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (1)

bmartin (1181965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141884)

... unless you'd have to pay $100 each way to take a taxi to and from work every day, and with no other form transportation available, find driving is the only reasonable way to get to work.

There are only two ways for me to get to work... they're both highways and they're both constantly congested. Even if you put a $10 toll on both roads, going a different route wouldn't make sense.

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (0)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141584)

Ahhhhh finally at last, a new tax that will save us from ourselves...

The more ppl that need to get to work, the more it costs !

What a great idea !

A punishment tax !

Hey how bout we tax ppl for just the audactiy of going to work too !

Or....how about for going shopping, or breathing !

I mean they are breathing up the federal owned air space !

We should tax air usage, and we can tax it with air flow meters
we can all stick on our faces !

What a great idea, let me patent it immediately !

Re:Great, another way to screw the tax payers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141732)

Well presumably IBM are eyeing things like the London Congestion Charge which applies to an entire area of several square miles. Sure, there's an edge case (at the edges!) but there are no opportunities to get into central London by car via "surface streets".

We're not talking "road tolls" any more. We're talking area-based congestion with perimeter enforcement by ANPR.

IBM or Government (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141366)

Last I checked, it was the state governments that made roads (with federal funding). How is IBM going to start putting up it's own tolls? Seriously. This is just asinine FUD. IBM files a patent and /. blames them for toll roads? "Nerds" use to be considered smart.

Even more reason (3, Funny)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141370)

To show up at work at 10:30 AM :)

Re:Even more reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141406)

The tolls are also real cheap at 5:00 AM.

-- Your boss

Re:Even more reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141472)

Save gas too and just don't leave work.

-- Your CEO (the one with the MBA)

Re:Even more reason (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141738)

Not really a joke. This is the same as paying people a small amount for telecommuting 7:30-10, driving to work 10:30 and working 10:30-5 instead of driving 7:15-8 and working 8-5.

That's the way the market is supposed to work to allocate resources more efficiently.

anti-egalitarian? (4, Insightful)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141398)

You mean, they're charging people differently based on their religion? Their race? Their social class? Are they not charging people regardless of who they are?

Charging people more for things in higher demand is called "capitalism". Perhaps that is anti-egalitarian, but this particular instance is no more anti-egalitarian then, say, charging people more for higher quality health care, or charging people more for better quality food.

Always make the rich pay more (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141898)

Nah, what it means is, taking public transit out of the equation because many places with toll roads do not have effective public transit: rich people pay proportionally less of their income to use the road than poor people do. That's regressive [wikipedia.org] and anti-egalitarian. It makes an unlevel playing field even less level. If the system charged people a percentage of their income, that would be egalitarian. That's why sales taxes are regressive too.

This isn't even about making more money. This is about reducing demand, getting people to drive less, use public transit more, creating less traffic congestion for all of us.

good idea (1)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141404)

... and it's been kicked around for a long time. There is no reason IBM should get a monopoly on this.

The fact that Friedman thinks that (1) this is innovative, and (2) that the fact that IBM has a monopoly on this helps anybody just shows again what an idiot he is.

*Lanes* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141436)

My idea goes halfway: you get charged for the *lane* you're in. Faster lane == more $. That way, the people who can't "afford it" still get to use the cheaper, government-subsidized lanes.

And, I believe ALL major roads should be toll so that the people who are actually using a road can pay for it.

Re:*Lanes* (3, Insightful)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141612)

In exchange I expect no fuel tax, no Vehicle licensing requirements or fees and free public transit.
Then you have a deal.

Of course you realize that

And, I believe ALL major roads should be toll so that the people who are actually using a road can pay for it.
this is already covered by fuel tax. The more you drive (likely predominately on major roads), the more fuel you use, thus the more tax you pay. Also, the heaver your vehicle, the more fuel you are likely to use, thus the more tax you pay.

But go ahead and place toll booths at every major road. Traffic would come to a dead standstill.
-nB

Re:*Lanes* (1)

Compuser (14899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141702)

I like this but further segregating roads is too confusing and too expensive. We already have carpool lanes and regular ones so how about keeping tolls low on carpool lanes. This helps promote carpooling and also people who are financially stretched will find a way to carpool giving them an out from rising charges.

Isn't that the point? (4, Insightful)

doombringerltx (1109389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141446)

That if you really need to get somewhere you take the tollway to get there faster. Tollroads always have less traffic than their free counter parts. You pay a little bit to get their faster. I hate the morning commute enough that I'll pay a little extra for a road like this. And on the other hand I always feel like a moron when I'm taking a tollroad home at 3AM and I'm the only one on the road. I'm glad to pay to different charges for the two different times

Tone of the summary (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141450)

The tone of the summary is pretty snotty.

When demand outstrips supply, you have 3 choices:
  1. Endure lines (traffic jams). This sucks for the environment and our dependence on oil, makes the roads less useful for everyone, and costs society a bundle in lost productivity.
  2. Create more supply. Build more roads. We've been trying that for a long, long time. I don't think the Jersey Turnpike can get much bigger.
  3. Curtail demand. Many ways to do this, including building more public transit and taxing fuel.
  4. Raise prices. This affects the poor more than the rich - big surprise there! So does everything else, why are roads special?
Now, I understand the appeal of helping out the poor. But this isn't health insurance or food stamps or housing. The "right to drive a car to work" is not exactly a basic human right. I think that a nice balance of 2-3 is the way to go.

You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141458)

...every now and then it'd be nice to read useful and timely news on Slashdot without having to sift through the author's heavy-handed and ill-informed political opinion.

Which rights were inalienable again? (1)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141470)

I don't think driving on a toll road is one of them. After all, poor people are by definition, not as valuable as wealthy people so why should anyone care about their commute times?

Re:Which rights were inalienable again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141510)

Silly you: poor people don't have cars. They have feet.

Anti-egalitarian scheme? (3, Insightful)

Mydron (456525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141474)

What's egalitarian about the free rider problem [wikipedia.org] Why don't we let drivers pay the real cost of driving rather than letting everyone else subsidize the construction of roads (oh, and wage wars in oil-rich countries).

BTW, please save the commerce-needs-transport retort, it costs four times as much to ship something by truck compared to rail.

Improve mass transit and increase motoring costs (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141478)

If you want to reduce traffic, increase the marginal costs of driving and provide cheaper non-driving alternatives people actually want and will use.

Make telecommuting and mass transit dirt cheap and very simple, and make the marginal per-mile cost of driving a private vehicle a lot higher than it is now.

On the other hand, there will be unintended consequences, like a revolt at the polls by people who insist on the right to drive cheaply.

AAPL in the TANK Down 30 !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141484)



AAPL in the tank

SELL

SELL

SELL !!

Mass transit... (2, Interesting)

snarfies (115214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141488)

I like this idea. No, really.

If you live in the sticks, I imagine this won't be too much of a problem for you. I don't live there and don't intend to find out for sure. Me, I live in Philadelphia (home of the useless muni wifi). I used to work in the far suburbs. I had two options for getting there: 1) Drive on the Schuykyll "Expressway," or 2) take the train. Of course, I had to wait for the train, but then again I didn't have to wait in traffic - evens out. But I could read a book on the way to work, and overall I saved gas money. And in so doing, I'm pretty sure I helped the environment to boot.

If I want to go downtown to the Gallery mall, I can drive, or I can take the trolley that runs one block from my apartment. The trolley goes underground at 40th Street, so it can zip through what would normally be some nice urban gridlock to 13th Street, the end of the line. The Gallery is two blocks on foot from there. Total time saved - usually 10 minutes or so, plus, again, I can read a book and not use gas.

TCP will work the same way. (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141496)

Each TCP packet has a "ECN bit", Explicit Congestion Notification, which routers will set if the packet encounters congestion on its way. If TCP stacks started taking note of these bits to slow down then the internet would (provably) run faster. One way is to charge for each packet that gets this ECN bit, maybe in real money if you're a big player, or maybe in virtual money, so long as the computers at each end of the TCP connection both feel the pinch.

Prior art in LA (2, Informative)

simpsone (830935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141526)

I didn't exactly RTFA, but they already do this in LA. It's not the entire road, just the commuter/carpool lanes. As traffic increases the toll does too. There's no tollbooths either, it's all run via FasTrack.

Jennifer Government (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141548)

In the book Jennifer Government, there is a part where a character is looking for a quick exit from a "premium road" that a wrong turn inadvertently placed him upon. Sad to see this dystopia coming to a reality near us. :-(

Let me get this straight... (1)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141578)

IBM thinks it has a good idea, adding insult to injury?

There's no joke here. Their parent is funny enough. I could add nothing to this to make it any more funny. Wow.

This is exactly the same thing that's done with the on-ramp lights in Los Angeles, only here with toll roads there is a pricing scheme just like the Vegas hotels.

How is this not an obvious, yet ignorably stupid, idea?

     

Variable Rate Troll System? (1)

delire (809063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141602)

IBM patents a Variable Rate Troll System?

Slashdot, time to get a lawyer, a real good one..

Anti-egalitarian (4, Informative)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141608)

*sigh* When you have a limited resource, you have to discriminate. Either you'll have the people you can pay or the people who don't mind waiting in line. The great thing with price discrimination is that it introduces an incentive to produce more of the scarce resource. This is what the entire economy if not the entire civilization is based on. Yes, discrimination is anti-egalitarian, but guess what, everything cannot possibly be available to everyone, that's a physical impossibility, discrimination is natural.

Insert obligatory Princess Leia quote (1)

suitepotato (863945) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141636)

to Grand Moff Tarkin here.

We watch Science Channel and History Channel programs all the time showing off our prodigious engineering and design ingenuity and what do we get? We get disincentives and perverse incentives one after the other from the people who think the popularity contests we call elections are licenses to do whatever they want to the people.

We the people put them there more and more as if we expect and masochistically want them to do us up the backside so we can get angry and rebel more.

The whole shebang is headed for disaster and revolution and everyone involved is intelligent enough to see it, but not wise enough to stop it.

Ibm is a evil company. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141646)

I don't at all understand were people got this idea that IBM is a nice company. Few companies has a worse track record of bullying other companies. And of cause few companies has more bullshit patents, probably the worst company on the planet in this regard.

2 things (2, Insightful)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141652)

1. Congestion charges are the goal for the reduction of traffic while you maximize welfare. You force people into making choices both about WHEN they drive and WHERE they drive. a variable charge based on traffic is much better, from an efficiency standpoint, than a flat charge simple to use the road. a flat charge will keep pople off the road who need to use it, and provide an incentive for those who DO use the road to overuse it.

2. That being said, we don't live in an ideal world. Congestion charges work very well from a welfare standpoint when there are easily accessible alternatives to dirivng on the highway. I can't afford to live in a city, but I have to work there. I can't make a light rail system appear tomorrow, but now I have the economic incentive to ride light rail. We can see the impact of congestion charges at work in a place like london, where public transport is a viable alternative for ANYONE. It is much harder to see it at work in wisconsin.

Re:2 things (1)

pxlmusic (1147117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141766)

1. Congestion charges are the goal for the reduction of traffic while you maximize welfare. You force people into making choices both about WHEN they drive and WHERE they drive. a variable charge based on traffic is much better, from an efficiency standpoint, than a flat charge simple to use the road. a flat charge will keep pople off the road who need to use it, and provide an incentive for those who DO use the road to overuse it.
yeah, but those who can afford it will still do so. this is akin to people driving vehicles that use a disproportionate amount of fuel. yeah, you can afford it, but when the resources run out, you can't stuff dollar bills into your gas tank and expect it to run.

Re:2 things (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141836)

The resource won't run out before it becomes so expensive that no one wants to use it. That last barrel of oil will cost so much that no one will buy it. More to the point, it is OKAY that people who want to drive will still do it. That should be the point. The point of environmental regulation shouldn't be to force everyone off the road. The point should be to internalize the evironmental costs to either the consumer or the producer. If we felt the real cost of driving during peak hours, some of us might take steps to drive less or drive at other times. Some of us won't. The ones that won't pay more. Everyone is better off.

Bad Ideas all around (5, Insightful)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141656)

How about using taxes to pay for roads because they are part of the public infrastructure?!

Using the PA turnpike as an example, almost all of the tolls go to pay for the state employees and their benefits, heated booths, etc, and very little if any goes back into the road. The toll system is in place to pay for itself and not the road. It's a sham. If they got rid of all the zombies in the toll booths and put up those buckets that you toss change into they could charge a fraction and have more money to put toward the road, but still... that's what taxes are for.

As a result the PA turnpike is the worst highway in PA to drive on, full of potholes, poorly maintained, half finished construction sitting empty and idle most of the time.

The other huge reason toll roads are a BAD IDEA is that there is no competition, no other option. There's almost never a parallel highway going the same place, and who would really want that anyway. So you have to pay the toll or not go at all, or spend hours and gas $$ going around. It's taking a critical public resource and using it for legal extortion. Imagine if you had to pay a sidewalk toll to walk to lunch every day.

This idea of congestion tolls seems to have yet another bad idea behind it... Most people aren't on the roads for fun. They're on the roads because they need to get somewhere.
If skyrocketing gas prices aren't thinning out the traffic why would congestion tolls thin it out?

Singapore has had this for a long time (1)

KeithH (15061) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141660)

Look to Singapore for prior art. An article at http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/2239 [tollroadsnews.com] suggests that *many* places have done this. I'm sure that IBM has added some "non-obvious" twist to an obvious idea.

Re:Singapore has had this for a long time (1)

Tiger Smile (78220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141734)


"Look to Singapore for prior art. An article at http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/2239 [tollroadsnews.com] suggests that *many* places have done this. I'm sure that IBM has added some "non-obvious" twist to an obvious idea."

God I hope it's the Spanish Inquisition. Nothing obvious about that!

Capitalism (1)

prakslash (681585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141684)

This is the basic free market concept of letting the price fluctuate based on supply and demand.

Airlines/Hotels change prices all the time based on supply and demand.

With more and more highways going under private ownership, this day wasn't far off.
IBM just automated it.

Egalitarianism-shgalitariniam. This is your basic free market Capitalism at work.
Be proud and if you can't afford the toll, take the bus.

Re:Capitalism (1)

pxlmusic (1147117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141848)

what if you can't afford to live in the city accessible to the bus, or if your city doesn't have adequate public transportation? what then? /lives in Atlanta //MARTA is in fact the subway to nowhere

Not new? (1)

tmarthal (998456) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141686)

Every time I drive on the California 91 through the valleys north of Orange County, there is a big sign stating what the current toll is for the toll lanes. It fluctuates between 1.50 at midnight on Sunday to $6 on Thursday at 5pm.

How is this different?

Tolls should be equal for all (1)

Iberian (533067) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141712)

If the government needs to create a toll to fund a portion of road then it needs to be 100% equal for all. This will ensure that natural demand drives people to other means of transportation. The government is too corrupt and inept to be put in charge of manipulating drivers to force social change.

While we are talking about VRT systems it should also be noted that only the government should be able to levy a toll. The selling of toll roads to private companies (who did not buy the land or pay to have the road built) should be illegal as it allows for the private owners to increase tolls which maximizes profit but drives motorist to side streets which the government then pays the repair cost on. Note that this will happen with varible rate toll systems as well during peak hours.

Brilliant - Market Your Way to a Solution, NOT! (2, Insightful)

deweycheetham (1124655) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141722)

| ...Probably the biggest green initiative coming down the road these days, literally, is congestion pricing -- charging people for the right to drive into a downtown area. ...|

Give me another reason not to drive downtown from the suburbs, and watch the Urban Blight of the 70's come back with a vengeance as the infrastructure crumbles.

Since this is a new way of taxing people and raising revenue, I am sure it will be adopted in all the 50 state's largest cities by the end of the year if not sooner. When that happens again as in the 70's, I will politely take my business to the local strip mall 5 minutes away from to avoid such none since. This kind of thinking is what ultimately lead to the Rust Belt Effect in the Midwestern States. So I guess it's coming back by popular demand thanks to IBM who wants to sell "The People" their newest master plan software. Ugh, not again...

Prior Art (1)

jcouvret (531809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141756)

I don't know how they got a patent for this; the center lanes of Interstate 15 in San Diego, CA have had pricing adjusted based on traffic congestion for at least 5 years. Is there something special and new to this patent that I am missing?

Variable Rate Trolling System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22141764)

Can't slash claim prior art? :P

Stifling innovation? (1)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141768)

With any luck, this patent will do exactly what patents aren't intended to do (but do anyway). I would not be disappointed if other companies were not able to put variable tolls in place without getting sued. So go ahead, IBM, and patent them. While you're at it, do you think you could manage to patent price gouging, and then sue everyone who does it? Or, more appropriately, try to get a patent for patent trolling.

Uh, hello?!? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141800)

The patent abstract:

A method and system are provided in which average vehicle speeds of tolled and non-tolled road segments between two locations are monitored and saved for reference in providing dynamic adjustment of the toll amount to be charged for use of the tolled segment in order to insure an efficient use of the tolled segment and a determination of an appropriate toll amount to be charged drivers in the tolled segment in view of real time traffic conditions of the tolled and the non-tolled segment. The toll adjustments are determined based upon the difference between actual average speeds of the tolled segment and actual average speeds of the non-tolled segment such that the toll adjustments are dynamic and depend upon real time traffic conditions in both the tolled and non-tolled segments of the travel route.
This sounds far more "trivial" to me than this morning's freak-out about the Yahoo application. ("Trivial! Obvious! Uh, can anyone think of a case of prior art so we can prove how trivial and obvious it is?") Odd that the submitter and editor chose to make this one a grievance over populism instead.

Peak Oil will fix this (0, Offtopic)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141810)

GW is on his knees fellating the house of Saud to open the spigot. Well, the spigot is wide open, and they aren't getting any more out of the ground. Why? They peaked. They're done. And in the next few years, it will become clear that the world, as a whole, has also peaked. And that means less oil than the year before, forever. Now, if the economy completely tanks, we might keep it flat for a while, but then it will also drift down.

At that point, the price accelerates, (say, US$6 gal) and people stop driving.

Thtis drives demand destruction, and the price levels off, higher than before.(say, US$4 gal)

People adjust, and the amount pumped out reduces, and can't be lifted up, and then the price bumps up again to $8 then drifts down to $6. It will do that, essentially, forever or until people stop using petroleum as fuel.

so, there is no need to charge for congestion. It will simply disappear of its own accord in the next 10 years.

RS

Well, at least you can pay for better service (1)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141814)

The existing "egalitarian" approach is that everyone is stuck in traffic equally — you can not pay more to get better commute.

The proposal would certainly be an improvement. The "(non)-egalitarian" is a red herring — I don't see anyone complaining, that "the rich" have better TV-sets, jewelry, or, indeed, cars.

What we really need is some accountability for the road-maintainers, which are, unfortunately, mostly local governments, who are paid, mostly, by the Federal government... But, at least on the toll-roads, there could be rules instituted, mandating an automatic full refund of the tolls, if, for example, the average speed of the vehicle between the entrance and the exit was below, say, 40mph...

There is prior art : and it did not work... (1)

edavid (1045092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141864)

The patent has no value, french highway operator Cofiroute did this in the 1990's...
And it failed : people waited on emergency lane for the toll to go down, thus creating big danger.

Don't we do this already, all over? (2, Insightful)

brusk (135896) | more than 6 years ago | (#22141894)

Isn't this what already happens with public transit? Many systems have lower fares for "off-peak" times and weekends (or offer things like weekend passes, which amount to the same thing). And theaters have cheap matinees. Restaurants have early bird specials, and charge less for the same food at lunch. Power companies sell electricity for less at off-peak times.

What's weird about this debate is that you have libertarian types complaining, "I paid my taxes dammit, you liberals keep your hands off my free roads," while liberals are saying, "let's let the market take care of this." A role reversal. I know that's an inaccurate generalization, but the sides taken in the above posts have sometimes been rather strange.
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