November 23, 2015
On Saturday, the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Registration Task Force issued its recommendations on a mandatory UAS registration proposal. The report is available here. On October 19, the task force was announced by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) Michael Huerta. A Federal Register notice followed on October 22. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed ...
November 23, 2015
On October 23, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the Department of Homeland Security to produce a schedule for final rule publication on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of body scanners in airports. This order was in response to a lawsuit filed in July 2015 by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)—along with the National Center for Transgender Equality, The Rutherford Institute, and two CEI employees (former President Lawson Bader and me, Marc Scribner)—asking the court to compel the TSA to produce its final rule on body scanners. For years, the TSA had been flouting the federal...
October 29, 2015
Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Sarah Feinberg to head the Federal Railroad Administration. Feinberg has been acting administrator since January. She replaced Joseph Szabo, who had spent decades in the railroad industry and was active in the United Transportation Union. Under George W. Bush, FRA was headed by engineer Allan Rutter, now a research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and Joe Boardman, the current CEO of Amtrak who has spent more the 40 years in the transportation and railroad industries.
Feinberg is a career Democratic Party public relations flak and has held a number of political appointments on the Obama administration’s spin team. Feinberg graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1999 with a degree in politics. Beyond her political career, she had briefly worked in the communications shops of Facebook and Bloomberg between gigs in...
October 23, 2015
Earlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against the government in CEI’s challenge to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) illegal body scanner policy. CEI, joined by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Rutherford Institute, filed a mandamus petition in July asking the court to compel the TSA to produce its final rule on body scanners within 90 days.
When the TSA began deploying body scanners as the primary screening method back in 2009, it failed to conduct a notice-and-comment rulemaking as required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the TSA was in violation of the APA. In July 2011, this same panel on the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of EPIC and ordered the TSA to “promptly” complete the required...
October 19, 2015
Today, the Department of Transportation announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a national drone registration mandate. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that he wants the task force to develop their recommendations by mid-November, with the mandate coming into force sometime in mid-December. Secretary Foxx also said that the mandate will apply to all unmanned aircraft systems. Drone lawyer Jonathan Rupprecht has a post on the practical and legal issues of creating and enforcing a registration regime. I’d like to highlight two problems raised by Rupprecht.
If Foxx is accurate, the Federal Aviation Administration will likely be in violation of two different federal laws...
October 16, 2015
This morning, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released its Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act. Unlike the Senate bill, which relies on imaginary pay-fors to support obscene spending increases, the House bill maintains less irresponsible baseline funding adjusted year-to-year for inflation. Eno has a useful table here.
We’re still reviewing the bill, but a few things immediately jumped out at me.
There is no movement on lifting the federal prohibition on states tolling their own Interstate segments (Section 1401). Further...
October 6, 2015
FAA PROPOSES RECORD FINE FOR UNAUTHORIZED UAS OPERATIONS: On October 6, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it was proposing a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan International, a Chicago-based aerial photography company. FAA alleges that SkyPan conducted 65 unauthorized commercial UAS flights over Chicago and New York City between 2012 and 2014.
Of these, 43 are alleged to have taken place in New York’s Class B airspace. Class B airspace is reserved for the areas around high-traffic airports, and is subject to the most onerous rules among all airspace classes. Basically, flying in Class B airspace without direct authorization from air traffic control is a big no-no.
The SkyPan case is by far the largest civil penalty proposed by FAA for unauthorized...
October 5, 2015
Over at Fusion, Kevin Roose has what is perhaps the worst article on automated vehicles (AVs) I’ve ever seen. In it, he calls for a near-term phase-in of a blanket national driving ban—specifically, beginning it in 2017 and completing it in 2020. That’s quite an ambitious “phase-in,” given that the average age within the U.S. car and light-truck fleet is more than 11 years.
This call to action isn’t based on facts about where the technology is today or what we can reasonably expect it to offer consumers over the next decade (or even that pesky thing called “the law”); rather, it assumes that fully automated, self-driving highway vehicles are essentially already...
September 29, 2015
Over at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fastlane blog, Greg Nadeau, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, has a post touting USDOT’s support for off-peak freight delivery pilot projects underway in New York City and Pensacola, Florida.
The problem of local traffic is well-known to any major U.S. city; truck operators suffer when forced to crawl through crowded city streets, and residents suffer when trucks block travel lanes or parking access. With commuter traffic lighter and parking more available, off-peak hours should make delivery easier for truck drivers as well as peak commuters and people scrambling for parking.
Funding in both pilots...
September 14, 2015
CALIFORNIA UAS BILL VETOED: On September 9, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 142 that would have imposed trespass liability on unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators who fly less than 350 feet above another’s private property. While aimed at preventing invasions of privacy, such a law would have not only greatly restricted UAS operations (the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently prohibits operators without special permission from flying more than 400 feet above ground level; more on this below), it would have subjected operators and the state to an enormous volume of litigation. The bill was strongly opposed by the UAS industry, hobbyists, press organizations, and others. Kudos to Gov. Brown. To...