Feds put kibosh on self-driving cars, plane sharing

posted at 10:11 pm on August 26, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

Kibosh may be more definitive than what’s going on here. It’s not that I don’t think these new innovations deserve some sort of look-see from regulators. It’s just that the process for a look-see from federal regulators is likely to be such an interminable purgatory that slows down new forms of transportation while, ironically, the feds are funding all kinds of very old transportation in the form of light rails no one will ride.

In the case of self-driving car technology we’re falling behind the more innovation friendly Europe. Shame:

Federal regulators are also putting the brakes on self-driving cars, which are closely related to the Uber innovation—enabling riders to order a car service using their smartphone app. If fast-moving technology hadn’t collided with slow-moving regulators, this might have been the last summer you’d have to drive your own car.

Self-driving technology is reaching the limits of what U.S. regulators will allow. The 2014 Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan uses digital technology to be the first car most of the way to being self-driving. The S-Class combines active cruise control, automatic braking and lane-keeping technologies to offer what an industry analyst calls “70% autonomous driving.” The car steers, accelerates and brakes on its own in congested traffic up to 40 miles an hour. On the highway, it uses numerous cameras and radars to remain centered in its lane at a safe distance from the car ahead, up to 120 miles an hour.

But U.S. regulators won’t let car manufacturers go much beyond what Mercedes now offers. That means car makers can’t roll out technologies they already have, and auto makers in Europe, which has fewer regulations limiting technology, have surpassed their U.S. competitors.

Another kind of start-up allows small-plane pilots to act like Uber drivers, pooling the high costs of plane ownership and travel with passengers who need or want to fly. No longer, after an August letter from the FAA refused to confirm the legality of such arrangements:

Steve Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Cambridge-based airplane-sharing startup AirPooler, said a letter that threatens to jeopardize AirPooler’s business model is a sign of the Federal Aviation Administration ‘crushing innovation.’

The convoluted Aug. 13 letter sent from the FAA to AirPooler says pilots are banned from effectively acting like Uber drivers.

Unsurprisingly, Airpooler says they’re the victim of a fickle FAA:

AirPooler, a 2014 startup finalist in the MassChallenge startup accelerator program, offers a website where pilots of small planes can share expenses of flights with aviation enthusiast-passengers. The model is similar to Northeastern University-born plane-sharing website Flytenow, which could also be in jeopardy after the FAA memo.

The letter was sent to AirPooler after the startup had requested the FAA confirm the legality of its plane-sharing business model.

In the spring, AirPooler had solicited help from the FAA’s former assistant chief counsel to ensure that the startup’s business model was following all the rules. To the company’s knowledge, the service was legal under FAA regulations.

However, the FAA now seems to be “changing its mind,” Lewis said, though the letter did not explicitly say the company should cease operations.

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OmahaConservative on August 26, 2014 at 10:18 PM

Screw these a$$hats.

No Plane Sharing?

Who authored that bill? Mary Landrieu? Nanzi Pelosi? Sheila (crazy hair) Jackson Lee? Harry Reid?

Whuh. They don’t wanna share a plane with smelly proles?

Need the author of this bill and the signers of this bill posted STAT.

Key West Reader on August 26, 2014 at 10:18 PM

In the case of self-driving car technology we’re falling behind the more innovation friendly Europe.

Who cares?

Self-driving cars are only a stepping stone to getting all humans out of the driver’s seat and, eventually, pricing cars out of most people’s reach … not to mention taking all the fun out of driving.

I thought the Segway was supposed to change life, as we know it, anyway. What the heck happened to that? It was the invention of the millenium, so I was told by the same people pushing self-driving cars to shuffle us all around like cattle.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on August 26, 2014 at 10:19 PM

The legality of sharing costs with someone, what?

Bishop on August 26, 2014 at 10:21 PM

Screw these a$$hats.

No Plane Sharing?

Who authored that bill? Mary Landrieu? Nanzi Pelosi? Sheila (crazy hair) Jackson Lee? Harry Reid?

Whuh. They don’t wanna share a plane with smelly proles?

Need the author of this bill and the signers of this bill posted STAT.

Key West Reader on August 26, 2014 at 10:18 PM

I forgot my / Tag.

Nah, I can’t lie. I didn’t read the whole article until I saw my most revered posters’ responses.

My bad. Please don’t sue me. LOL

Key West Reader on August 26, 2014 at 10:22 PM

Pfff, fooling lefties is like doing the fake throw when playing fetch with your dog.

Just tell them it’s an HOV lane for small planes. They’ll subsidize the damn thing.

trubble on August 26, 2014 at 10:23 PM

The legality of sharing costs with someone, what?

Bishop on August 26, 2014 at 10:21 PM

Bish… Imagine about 9 Religion of Peace guys creepin’ out on a private plane that’s allowed to fly..

eh. You get it.

Key West Reader on August 26, 2014 at 10:24 PM

Just one example of how far behind we have fallen due to burdensome and cumbersome regulation:

In 1960, it took 6 years to bring a drug to market. Today, it takes 15 years.

According to a House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce held on 1 November 2007 and entitled ‘FDA Foreign Drug Inspection Program: A System At Risk:

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating foreign-made medicines and ensuring the American public is supplied with safe medications. Despite a 2000 oversight hearing and a critical GAO audit in 1998, which pointed out many of the FDA’s weaknesses regarding importation of drugs, the FDA continues to use 20th-century tools and resources to address 21st-century regulatory challenges.

Resist We Much on August 26, 2014 at 10:25 PM

With the concern the Obama Administration has shown towards securing the borders I can see why AirPooler might be problematic under the current administration. Your ride-share passenger might not have access to a 767, but they could still do some damage.

jon1979 on August 26, 2014 at 10:26 PM

The legality of sharing costs with someone, what?

Bishop on August 26, 2014 at 10:21 PM

What about those ‘shared sacrifices’ that Dems are always directing us to as examples of good citizenship?

Resist We Much on August 26, 2014 at 10:26 PM

I will NEVER own a self driving car. I don’t even like using the cheap cruise control on my out modeled car. When I am in that seat I want to be in FULL control. As often and as easily as tech of any sort glitches and fails I do not want to be in a self driving car and have it “crash” figuratively and then literally. No thanks.

fragglerock61 on August 26, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Self driving cars are a “solution” that nobody is asking for.

Americans like to drive. Taking away that option isn’t going to catch on.

tetriskid on August 26, 2014 at 10:32 PM

I don’t want a self driving ANYTHING thanks much.

If I so much as get bumped by a self driving anything at all, I’m going to sue whoever is in charge of it, who designed it, and who set it loose for every freaking penny they have or ever will have.

Diluculo on August 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM

There has always been surprisingly few people wanting to fly planes. They would have outlawed small planes years ago if everyone wanted their own plane to fly around in. That sort of traffic would be a headache for many reasons.

But someone’s gonna invent the Jetson’s flying car and that will change everything. They will work on a computerized traffic grid like the driverless car people dream of.

Buddahpundit on August 26, 2014 at 10:36 PM

Another kind of start-up allows small-plane pilots to act like Uber drivers, pooling the high costs of plane ownership and travel with passengers who need or want to fly. No longer, after an August letter from the FAA refused to confirm the legality of such arrangements

What’s even worse, my lawyers tell me that under the wording of this proposed reg, it could end our participation in Corporate Angels, where we use my jet to carry cancer patients for free to wherever we’re going or places along the way, via the Corporate Angels Network program.

We would be considered, I’m told, an illegal airline “cab”, even though we don’t charge a dime for helping these kids and their families out.

Disgusting regulation, not just in this instance, but even for profit-oriented pilots and airplanes.

For more info on CAN, see corpangelnetwork.org.

TXUS on August 26, 2014 at 10:39 PM

Imagine:

- gun sharing
- wife sharing
- 44oz Cola sharing

faraway on August 26, 2014 at 10:40 PM

However, the FAA now seems to be “changing its mind,” Lewis said, though the letter did not explicitly say the company should cease operations.

The FAA never says “no you can’t” or “yes you can” in most cases of a questionable reg, this is nothing new.

lowandslow on August 26, 2014 at 10:43 PM

I’m looking forward to self driving cars, too many people texting. Have the computer drive in heavy traffic.

Oil Can on August 26, 2014 at 10:48 PM

Lots of posts today, MKH. Going for a record? Or is Salem paying you guys “per post” now?

And reclining seats should be illegal.

kcewa on August 26, 2014 at 10:48 PM

Stupid anti-science, anti-technology left. Next thing they will be telling us is climate disruption is a hoax.

Walter L. Newton on August 26, 2014 at 10:48 PM

Self driving cars are dumb. Just another way to erode and restrict our freedoms.

I don’t go anywhere I can’t drive as I refuse to be molested and sexually assaulted by the TSA.

That and planes are a cesspool of sickness and disease. Couldn’t pay me enough to fly somewhere in today’s world.

Meople on August 26, 2014 at 11:00 PM

Lots of posts today, MKH. Going for a record? Or is Salem paying you guys “per post” now?

And reclining seats should be illegal.

kcewa on August 26, 2014 at 10:48 PM

Ed is on a somewhat vacay. She gets a few more in due to the shuffle.

nobar on August 26, 2014 at 11:03 PM

The FAA has a classification called `commercial operator` as an endorsement to the pilot’s rating. Pilots have to have that endorsement to perform ‘for hire’ services. That has been in effect for years. The concept of doing an Uber in the Air would constitute ‘for hire’. Whereas the flight share to fly Vets to DC free of charge would not.

If anything the FAA is correcting a prior misreading of the regs.

Dr. Dog on August 26, 2014 at 11:07 PM

Does a self-driving car know what to do if there are indications of black ice up ahead? Does the car know what to do when a semi-truck blows a rear tire just as you’re passing it?

Yeah, I occasionally use cruise control, but I prefer to be an alert driver. If I want to ride passively, I’ll get in the passenger seat.

My current favorite idiotic car commercial is the one where the car brakes because the truck ahead is slowing suddenly, while the driver fiddles with his radio. Then the car warns the driver when he attempts a lane change without first looking and a car passes him.

The announcer then smoothly says “It frees to drive!” Yeah, right. Inattention to your surroundings is “driving”.

GarandFan on August 27, 2014 at 12:07 AM

It’s not the self driving cars they’re panicked about — it’s the self driving trucks that terrify them. What happens when nobody needs Teamsters?

DarthBrooks on August 27, 2014 at 12:08 AM

What’s even worse, my lawyers tell me that under the wording of this proposed reg, it could end our participation in Corporate Angels, where we use my jet to carry cancer patients for free to wherever we’re going or places along the way, via the Corporate Angels Network program.

We would be considered, I’m told, an illegal airline “cab”, even though we don’t charge a dime for helping these kids and their families out.

Disgusting regulation, not just in this instance, but even for profit-oriented pilots and airplanes.

For more info on CAN, see corpangelnetwork.org.

TXUS on August 26, 2014 at 10:39 PM

Your lawyers are wrong. If you aren’t charging it isn’t an issue. Also, the FARs specifically allow for non-profit flights of that type. Your lawyer doesn’t sound very good.

DaveS on August 27, 2014 at 12:22 AM

Self driving cars are a god send to us older folks. I live in a suburban area of a large city. Public transportation is virtually non existent. At 76 one of my worries is that I will lose my drivers license. If this happens I will have to sell my home and move into the city. Not where I want to live but I would have no choice.

The self driving cars will make this unnecessary. I currently have a 2012 Mercedes E-350. It has an active cruse control system and several other options to make driving safer for older people whose reflexes are not as sharp as they were 20 yeas ago. My car will follow the car in front and stop and start as required to maintain its distance. If I start to drift off the road it will nudge the car back.

Tsuchino1 on August 27, 2014 at 1:06 AM

Progress!

These Commies expect everyone (besides themselves) to walk or ride bicycles.

And forget horses-that’s animal cruelty.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 27, 2014 at 5:15 AM

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Remember that every bureaucracy from the March of Dimes to the FDA to your local School Board to your HOA follow this Iron Law.

When regulatory powers increase you then need more regulators.

The people who are advanced in regulatory agencies are the bureaucrats who successfully get more power for the bureaucracy.

We used to call ‘flight sharing’ or ‘sharing a ride’ this thing known as ‘hopping a ride with a friend’ and kicking some money into the kitty to cover expenses. The aim of the regulators is not to stop ‘companies’ but to end the civil practice of being friendly and neighborly to your friends and neighbors. The regulators want to regulate that, too. They start at the high end and then, those bureaucrats who have lobbied for this power, then seek to expand it and their own power to thus rise in the larger bureaucracy.

We are now near the end of that cycle for so many institutions it is not funny. The institutions no longer do their few and necessary duties and now concentrate ONLY on expanding power to the point where the institution now serves the bureaucracy, not its original goals.

ajacksonian on August 27, 2014 at 6:27 AM

Because that’s what governments do. Government these days CAN’T/WON’T create things all they can do is stop things from happening. And they have to find a way to tax it so they can spend more on people who don’t work or create either.

Besides, there is no place for graft or corruption in do-it-yourself-living.

clippermiami on August 27, 2014 at 7:49 AM

I’m starting a flight sharing program for Lefties. It has a nifty early exit feature.

justltl on August 27, 2014 at 8:19 AM

Europe, which has fewer regulations

Let that sink in for a moment….

AirPooler had solicited help from the FAA’s former assistant chief counsel to ensure that the startup’s business model was following all the rules. To the company’s knowledge, the service was legal under FAA regulations.

That was your first mistake. It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Occams Stubble on August 27, 2014 at 8:35 AM

We must share social responsibility. We must not share costs. USA!

airupthere on August 27, 2014 at 8:41 AM

It’s all good. United didn’t want the competition. Boeing would love to kill the Hondajet, along with the whole VLJ segment.

But carpooling is still OK.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Don’t be so happy that the government is killing the invisible hand of the market place.

Oil Can on August 27, 2014 at 8:49 AM

/sarc

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 8:51 AM

g-damnit…. I can’t wait until the day when I can get into my car say “Ok Google take me to Charleston” and then just pop up my tablet and read hotair while my car wisks me safely away to my boat.

Why does the US Government hate innovation?

Defenestratus on August 27, 2014 at 9:11 AM

big issue with self driving cars is people losing even more ability (as in knowledge how) to safely drive and when something happens they will fail when they take over.

dmacleo on August 27, 2014 at 9:16 AM

I can’t wait until the government hacks in and changes your destination.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 9:20 AM

eg. Take me to the Polling station.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 9:21 AM

If fast-moving technology hadn’t collided with slow-moving regulators, this might have been the last summer you’d have to drive your own car.

Uh, no. Has your neighbor started smoking anything new lately? Maybe it’s seeping through the walls?

As to the flight-sharing, that sort of arrangement has never really been legal unless you’re operating under a commercial ticket. Period. This isn’t a new thing. You can share the cost of a ride, but if you’re doing it commercially, then you have to be exercising a commercial ticket and operate as a commercial service. What you’re operating isn’t something new – it’s called a charter service.

Some folks around here (like MKH) seem to think anything shiny must be new and should therefore just be willy-nilly allowed.

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 9:50 AM

GarandFan on August 27, 2014 at 12:07 AM

Amen. So many people I see on my commute every day are not driving, they’re passengers in the driver’s seat.

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 9:53 AM

I don’t see where the FHA has any say in how a plane or a flight is funded. Phuck the government; do it anyway. It really is just none of their business. The key is to not ask the asswipes for permission, just apply for a business license and operate your business anyway you want, and pay your taxes.

earlgrey on August 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Is this encroaching on NetJets, the Warren Buffett business where people own parts of planes? If so, I understand why the competition is being regulated out of existence…

cptacek on August 27, 2014 at 10:57 AM

If I so much as get bumped by a self driving anything at all, I’m going to sue whoever is in charge of it, who designed it, and who set it loose for every freaking penny they have or ever will have.

Diluculo on August 26, 2014 at 10:34 PM

They can have slow lanes for people like you.

pedestrian on August 27, 2014 at 11:08 AM

The FAA ruling is puzzling. It has always been legal for a private pilot to share costs with passengers. So does this mean no more cost-sharing at all? And if some cost sharing is still OK, I predict that differentiating between legal and illegal cost sharing will be a tangled web.

AtTheRubicon on August 27, 2014 at 11:09 AM

earlgrey on August 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Ah, so it’s not just police threads on which you will deposit your particular brand of virulent ignorance!

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 11:13 AM

It has always been legal for a private pilot to share costs with passengers.

AtTheRubicon on August 27, 2014 at 11:09 AM

These people are operating a business. That removes the “private” part.

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Is this encroaching on NetJets, the Warren Buffett business where people own parts of planes? If so, I understand why the competition is being regulated out of existence…

cptacek on August 27, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Yes, and no. NetJets comes with a rented commercial pilot. This is about ride and cost sharing for non-commercial pilots. It has always been legal to ask for something towards fuel and oil, but that’s it. They never expected anyone to develop a business model on it. Now they want to quash it BECAUSE it WOULD cut into airline’s and NetJet’s profit to some extent. There actually is a valid safety issue too, granted, but should the government prevent me from driving 294 northbound in the morning?

Hard to say about it’s carbon footprint. Would boost general aviation, but hurt commercial.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Now they want to quash it BECAUSE it WOULD cut into airline’s and NetJet’s profit to some extent.

Right, that’s what I meant. I am not surprised that the ruling helps Buffett and hurts his competition.

cptacek on August 27, 2014 at 11:25 AM

These people are operating a business. That removes the “private” part.

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 11:17 AM

No more so than the classified ads are retailers.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Oh, and for fun, a taste of the extreme narcissism to come:

http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2008/November/1/election08/GA-Experience

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Now they want to quash it BECAUSE it WOULD cut into airline’s and NetJet’s profit to some extent.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 11:19 AM

No, it’s because it would be a commercial enterprise and they don’t want to follow the commercial rules.

No more so than the classified ads are retailers.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM

If you put out classified ads to come do business at your house, you’re operating a business out of your home. And you can’t claim otherwise.

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 11:45 AM

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 11:45 AM

1. No. Sharing a ride isn’t a commercial enterprise. And certainly not a viable one.

2. wrong analogy. my bad. The classified ad isn’t making the product, or selling it. Neither would Airpooler. They are merely a dating service.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Do carpoolers need a CDL?

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Self driving car?

I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’d want to see the costs, the mileage, and the safety and value comparisons.

I doubt it’d be something I’d do in the next decade.

I’m still waiting for my 2nd car.. I wanted the ≈ $5,000 “compressed-air powered” car… wasn’t I supposed to have that by now?

Sure it’s useless for road trips; but for in-town commuting it seems like a low cost option.

http://shanebertou.wordpress.com/2008/02/22/a-5000-car-that-runs-on-compressed-air-ill-take-two/

That was in 2008… what happened?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2266632/Car-runs-air-coming-soon-Peugeot-Citroen-unveil-new-117mpg-hybrid.html

Oh, now it’s a “hybrid”, and cost comparative to a Prius?
Never mind.

gekkobear on August 27, 2014 at 12:35 PM

1. No. Sharing a ride isn’t a commercial enterprise. And certainly not a viable one.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Sorry, but what they are doing is not simply sharing a ride. They are providing a service. You don’t have to make money for it to be a commercial enterprise.

They are merely a dating service.

A dating service is a business. Regardless of how ugly your dates are or how far you go together.

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 1:13 PM

They’ll have to pry the steering wheel out of my cold, dead hands!!!!

As the population becomes dumber and Lefty-er, there’s an insipid creep of prohibitions on those of us who actually sport a brain that can function without lane-wandering sensors, backup cameras, sleep deprivation detectors, etc., while safely getting ourselves from point A to Point B safely, and as quickly and as (mostly) legally possible!!

A self-driving car is like checking-in to a universe where the government takes total control of your life.

You know I’m right!!!

crankybutt on August 27, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Self driving cars are a god send to us older folks. ….. At 76 one of my worries is that I will lose my drivers license. ……
The self driving cars will make this unnecessary. I currently have …..

Maybe I’m lucky. I just turned 73; if not for arthritic knees, I’d still be playing basketball. As for driving, I still enjoy brief jaunts down the freeway at between 70 and 80…when it’s safe…! And, even here in Kalif-pornia, I’m not alone!!

crankybutt on August 27, 2014 at 2:08 PM

A dating service is a business. Regardless of how ugly your dates are or how far you go together.

GWB on August 27, 2014 at 1:13 PM

And the date isn’t a prostitute. Exactly. Airpooler is a business, but the date isn’t.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 3:28 PM

I wish people who denigrate the self-driving car would spend a week in my shoes. I cannot drive because of nerve damage and a spinal condition. It is not possible to modify regular cars to permit me to drive. (A CDRS analyzed my situation and gave me the thumbs down, because I need to be in a very reclined position, cannot turn my head very far, etc., etc.) Public transit has upright seats only, and is a very painful, bumpy ride. Cabs are hugely expensive. I don’t get out much, and have everything, even groceries, delivered. It’s a quiet life at home….

Armorica on August 27, 2014 at 7:08 PM

Armorica on August 27, 2014 at 7:08 PM

While it would be a liberating device for you Armorica, for most of us, quite the opposite.

WryTrvllr on August 27, 2014 at 8:26 PM