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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Traveling the OReGO Trail - Jumpy GPS

OReGO is the new mileage tax program that is currently under test in Oregon. I signed up to experience the program and see how it works (and to share my experiences here).

Below is trip from the OReGO partner site that tracks miles driven.

GPS recorded trip with bad data 
In the image above, there are three circled show places that I did not drive during this trip. Google maps shows that the route that I took was 8.1 miles, while the OReGO site has this trip listed as 8.3 miles.

It's not surprising that the GPSr unit would not get a great signal. If you've ever done any geocaching then you know that the coordinates can move around with even minor cover obstructions. The OReGO GPSr is under a dash, surrounded by electronics, wrapped in a steel and glass shell, all while zooming down the street. It's amazing that it works as well as it does.

GPSr unit that plugs into the OBD II port
The OReGO program is going to need to be improved to compensate for GPSr errors (tunnels, tree cover, etc.). The unit could read the odometer and vehicle speed and use this data as well as the GPS coordinates to more accurately measure the distance traveled. In the trip above for example, the minor errors are not significant, but the third and largest error has me getting on the freeway, taking an exit, getting back on the freeway and zipping back, all in the length of time that I traveled the on a freeway overpass. To do this in such a short period of time, I would have been traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. That is not possible on highway 26 at any time of day.

In this case, the additional money charged for the jumping GPS didn't matter. Despite the additional mileage, they seemed to get the fuel consumption right. So that just meant that I received a slightly smaller refund of my gas tax than I otherwise would have.

One reason to run a pilot program like this is to work out the bugs. I hope they are looking for these minor moments of lightspeed in the data so they can correct for them or find out who has discovered the next great interstellar travel solution.