US Motorists Road User Charge Taxes Create Windfall for Kiwi GPS Developers

The solution to a massive nose dive in US domestic tourism has come from an unlikely source, specialists in GPS vehicle tracking, Road User Charge rebate and electronic in-vehicle tax payments by Fleet Management companies in a place that many Americans couldn’t even place on a map, close to the bottom of the globe, New Zealand.

When the USA introduced national Pay As You Drive road user tax for all other than electric vehicles a few years ago, no one appreciated the impact this would have on a variety of industry segments. The intention was to encourage commuters and urban business travelers to make more use of public transport. Having a blanket rule resulted in a significant negative impact on the cost of living for rural Americans who typically have to travel much greater distances even for basic needs such as food, health, shopping an getting to work. It also decimated the domestic tourism industry.

Whilst rental vehicles were exempted which ensured international tourist numbers weren’t impacted, the tourism industry still  went into free-fall as domestic tourists couldn’t afford the increased cost to their trips. In the last few years US residents ‘for leisure’ person trips have dropped by a staggering 350,0000,000 from the 1.6 billion person trips recorded back in 2012.

Enter new rules designed to encourage people back onto the  freeways and into small town USA, which allowed rebates for motorists who met certain conditions. These included a ratio of distance traveled on non urban roads, or on private roads and proof that the vehicle was more than 100 miles away from home for one or more nights.

In Car RUC System

In Car RUC System

New Zealand Fleet Management solution companies, having had many years developing Road User Charge tax rebate solutions with GPS tracking for commercial diesel fleets, were able to offer a ready made answer. Not only did they have low cost solutions ready to plug in to most vehicles manufactured since 2007, they also had the ability for people to pay those taxes direct from the vehicle and included an in-vehicle display which both Police and the public could use to ensure that taxes had in fact been paid. Several Kiwi companies have now partnered with US organizations including domestic Fleet Management companies and major vehicle brands.

The AAA and insurance companies also welcomed the move as the Fleet Management systems monitor car driving behavior, encouraging green driving and enabling PAYD (Pay As You Drive) insurance, where premiums are reduced for people who don’t use harsh breaking, over-acceleration and other behaviors which reduce risk. Several car and motor-home manufacturers are now considering putting this technology into their vehicles as standard features.

According to US Travel Association research in 2012, 1 out of 8 US jobs depended on travel and tourism (representing 14.6 million jobs supported by travel expenditures), which was in the top 10 income earners for 48 states.

It is hoped that domestic tourism will make a big swing back in the coming year, with the costs of the initial investment for motorists being offset by a variety of discounts, special tourism industry offers and off course road user tax rebates for those who meet the criteria.

Long Bay Finally Gets Ferry Wharf Approval

Transport Auckland finally bowed to pressure and has approved a Ferry Terminal installation to cope with the gridlock after heated protests from residents of the new Long Bay development. 

Long Bay DevelopmentLong Bay was highlighted by former Prime Minister John Key as a sign of growth and opportunities for the construction industry back in 2013. It started with 2,500 houses housing an average of 3 people. Then they opened up 3 more subdivisions and another 23,000 people moved into the area.

With 30,000 more people trying to make the trip to school and work, combined with people from all over Auckland heading to and from one of the most popular beaches in Auckland, the roads have been gridlocked. Minor widening of the local roads hasn’t appeared to make any difference.

Jaap Botha one of the early buyers said “This was our dream purchase. A beautiful new home with views of Auckland Harbour. The problem with it is that I hardly get to enjoy it. In order to get to work in the city I now have to leave home at 6 AM to get to the office by 8 and more than half of that time is spent getting from home onto the motorway on-ramp  The total distance is only 21 km!

“By the time I get home its nearly dark. Four hours of commuting at an average speed of just over 10 km per hour is enough to raise the stress levels far higher than the benefit of living in a nice area like this. Property values are going down because buyers don’t want to spend 4 hours in their cars every day either.”

Auckland Transport advised that ferries should be operational from the new Long Bay ferry terminal within 18 months. Locals say this is something they will look forward to, but many will have left the area by then.

President Announces New Moon Base Project Collaboration

President (Hilary) Clinton has announced that the USA is going to collaborate on the creation of a permanent moon base together with China and Virgin Galactic. This base will support further exploration of the moon and provide a stepping stone to explore Mars and other planets. 

Jointly Controlled Moon Base

“Our plan, together with our partners is to create a base which will be both scientific and commercial. This is a 10 year plan which has parallels to that of President Kennedy so many years ago, to put man on the moon before we even knew how to achieve that.” said President Clinton. “Now of course we know exactly what we need to do and how to do it and are in a position to achieve this new dream well within this time. So many discoveries and inventions resulted from the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. We anticipate a new renaissance of technology, bio-engineering and hi-tech industries which will help the USA and its partners grow out of the fiscal slumps of the last 5 years.”

She went on to say, “This initiative will create thousands of new jobs for both the USA and our partner China as new industries that can benefit from low gravity are developed. Additional funding will come from commercial activities of companies such as Virgin Galactic who are going to build a lunar hotel and resort, the rights to do this come with an agreement to provide a percentage of space on their craft as payload for the base development. They have also won the rights to ship finished goods back to China from the lunar factories.”

Branson on the MoonVirgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson, said that he was delighted to be involved in this initiative which will help him realize a lifetime dream to have his own space port and space tourism business. “Some people said I was just a dreamer. I say that if you don’t dream big, you won’t achieve big results.” Virgin Galactic has already pre-sold over 1,000 room nights in their first hotel before the ground has even been broken.

 

Are domestic Robots Spying on You?

Back in 2012 an article featured widely in the press, quoting the CIA Director David Petraeus saying “We’ll spy on you through your fridge”.  The article talked about the Internet of Things, which effectively meant that various devices in our homes would be connected to the Internet. The result of this would be that organisations like the CIA could potentially get a wealth of information about what is going on in people’s homes and workplaces, without having to break and enter in order to install cameras and other ‘spy’ technology.

Most people weren’t even aware at the time that they were actively and publicly investing in  hi-tech start-ups and developers through their investment company In-Q-Tel. Great that they are though, because it offers the opportunity for a lot of new technology to be developed for all to benefit from. A huge number of the technologies that we ‘enjoy’ today were the result of World War II and the space race. For example IBM built a computer in 1944 funded by the US military which needed a large scale automatic calculator that could rapidly perform an enormous number of ballistic calculations. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for the transformation of the world brought about through computing and communications technologies.

domestic-robot-lawn-mowerToday we have technology in the home that talks to our mobiles and allows us to automatically replenish our pantries, control the home climate, see who is on our doorstep and if appropriate let them in, even if we aren’t home.

I used to hate lawn mowing, but now it is a breeze.

VacuumThe vacuum cleaning is now done while we are out of the house so I don’t have to listen to that horrible sound and it even empties itself.

Many people in Korea and Japan  have had domestic robots doing their chores for many years and countries like the US are following at a rapid pace.

Most of these devices are manufactured in Asia and there are now concerns that these devices, which use cameras to understand their surroundings in order to be able to function, are transmitting this data to sources other than those required in order to ensure they are functioning correctly and have the latest firmware updates. Stories have started to come out in recent times that not only are our domestic agencies able to see what is going on in our homes, it may be that foreign powers from the countries where they are being manufactured also have that capability.

Have countries like Korea and China created Trojan Horses that we have joyfully invited into our homes? What are the implications of this? I’d welcome your comments? I’ve always been into gadgets and I love my connected home which allows me to focus my time on things that I want to do, rather than have to do and I doubt I am of interest to anyone. But what about the homes of politicians, industry leaders and those who may have something to hide?

Loving the Auckland Ferry Commute

I once said that I would never commute across the bridge any more for any job. Spending an hour each way from home to work just didn’t make sense, what a total waste of time. Well almost, because I used to listen to podcasts on the way that I might not have made time for otherwise, but I have to say I hated it.

Then with the increase in population and the lack of initiative and imagination from Council, NZTA and Government in creating a decent mass transit system it become an hour and a half each way at peak times and still an hour each way in off peak. When Imersia was a relatively small company, it wasn’t such a problem because I could start work from home and head in the office once the traffic died down, but these days it doesn’t really die down at all.

The book Urban Legend that came out back in ’12 said it all. What would Auckland have been like if they had listened to Robbie? We could have been a phenomenally successful city. But we didn’t and now we have a nice ring system that travels at 10km an hour at peak and the Northern Motorway slows to 8km per hour. I used to feel like hopping out of my car on the motorway, leaving it there and running home.

Heading to Long Bay on the Ferry After Work

Then they managed to give the PC brigade the slip and followed the example of Sydney and put ferry wharf’s into Long Bay, Browns Bay and Takapuna and it was problem solved. Our offices are in the Viaduct and commuting is now a pleasure. I walk down to Long Bay, unless its raining, then I park my car in the ‘Park and Cruise’ just up from the beach. I have a flat white on the ferry and clear my inbox using their WiFi, whilst enjoying our awesome coastline on the way into town.

On the way home, especially in winter, I get to enjoy the beautiful city lights, instead of inhaling diesel fumes on the clogged motorway. I just have to wonder why they didn’t do this years ago. More people get to enjoy our North Shore beaches, the wharf’s are great for fishing and strolling along and there are less cars on the motorways. It cost a hell of a lot less to build too.

 

 

New Zealand Rooftops to power the country

Based on research developed by scientists at USC, electricity is being produced on home and business roofs all over the country, feeding the now popular electric cars with sustainable electricity and selling surplus energy back into the grid for all to share.

Liquid Energy

It took a couple of elections and a lot of pressure from the Green Party, but finally the feed in tariffs that we have been asking for over recent years have been implemented.

The tipping point was the ability to create liquid solar cells as nanocrystals that can be ‘printed’ onto other materials. Roof material manufacturers were able to design roofing sheets and tiles which look normal, but are in fact covered with solar cells.

Farmers have welcomed this technology and have covered farm buildings with solar cells reducing the problems caused by power outages in rural areas and reducing their overheads.

In addition to now having a sustainable power infrastructure for New Zealand, this initiative has generated a whole wave of new jobs in roofing materials design and manufacturing, installation, smart metering design and much more.

New Zealand has become a world leader in this technology and has once again been able to proudly call itself a clean green country.

Electric vehicles have become not only more viable with ease of access to electricity, but they are now truly green because the power generated to run them is no longer produced by sources requiring the use of fossil fuels.

The Super Debate in New Zealand

The debate over retirement age and superannuation just got interesting in New Zealand and in ways I certainly didn’t expect. Treasury increased the age of eligibility for the old age pension from 65 to 67 back in 2013 and now they want to scale it up every year to the age of 70, claiming that the burden is now too high for tax payers with average life expectancy in New Zealand for men and women combined now reaching 84 and almost 40% expected to reach 100.

Holidays may be out for seniors who don’t keep working

A large percentage of seniors actually want to work and recent job sharing programs have proven very popular with many working 2-3 days a week. A survey recently established that not only did people want to keep working in order to maintain their lifestyles, but they enjoyed keeping their minds active and the social contact that comes with employment.

Many businesses have said that they value the experience and the work ethic of the baby boomers, even more so as there are less graduates coming out of New Zealand universities and it takes a number of years before they become financially productive to their companies.

On the other hand there is now a backlash from the new generation of young job seekers claiming that the grey generation is stealing their jobs and forcing them onto unemployment benefits, or to move to better paying jobs in the mines in Australia or the fracking operations in North America.

Petrol Prices Cross the $3 Barrier

Well it hovered at the high $2.90’s a litre for about 6 months but now petrol is averaging $3.09.9 at the pump and it doesn’t look like it’s going to drop below $3 again. Between the political problems in the Middle East, North Korea and North Africa, America has been stockpiling much larger levels.

It looks like a major employment boom is starting in North America after approvals were given for fracking of shale rock and drilling oil in national parks. The Government said that this is unlikely to reduce the price of oil in New Zealand and that we should get used to it by investing in smaller cars and making better use of public transport. Of course the park and rides are so full by 7AM on the North Shore that people are forced to drive to work anyway.

The Government has given approval for the first gas fracking operation in Southland on the proviso that a large fund is deposited to restore the national park to its previous condition once the operation closes. It has pretty much been accepted that NZ is very low in the pecking order as oil supplies gain increasingly higher demand in North America and the massively growing economies of China and India.