Tag Archives: Transportation Tech

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Supply chain disruptions are causing havoc in the auto industry

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The global auto industry will produce 1.5 million to 5 million fewer vehicles this year than initially planned due to supply chain disruptions. Analysts predict a rise in auto costs. A more problematic factor is the likely loss of jobs in a sector that employs thousands of Americans.

The global semiconductor chip shortage has sent the auto world into a frenzy. The pandemic and stay-at-home lifestyles have created soaring demand for electronic devices, which has increased the demand for semiconductor chips.

Semiconductors form the core of an increasing number of electronic devices, large and small. They help power large machines like space shuttles and automobiles as well as everyday devices like cameras, smartphones, vacuum cleaners, and refrigerators.

Automobiles have relied heavily on semiconductors since the 1970s. These chips tie in dozens of integrated circuits, dashboard displays, power windows, air bags, and catalytic converters. The growing computer-chip shortage is therefore alarming for the industry and the government. It has already halted auto production in three states and Canada and Mexico, a crisis that was brewing for the last four months or so.

Along with the pandemic, the weather has created bottlenecks as well. The unforeseen cold snap in Texas sent two major chip factories in Austin offline, and it will still be some time for them to get into full gear.

In the U.S., the problem also lies in the lack of domestic manufacturing centers for these chips. Even though the existing manufacturers did their best to ramp up production for car manufacturers, they cannot beat the global chip shortage in a day. The increasing use of chips in devices means that no matter how much we blame the pandemic and the weather, we still need to address domestic manufacturing.

At this point, the Biden administration has a two-fold task — conduct talks with big chip producers and convince their host nations to increase output. Another item on the agenda is to hold bipartisan talks to encourage the construction of more chip factories in the United States.

Much of the global electronics industry continues to rely on existing factories, mostly in Asia, and especially Taiwan. According to research firm IHS Markit, Taiwanese company TSMC produces 70% of the global auto industry’s supply of microcontrollers, which is a critical type of chip. The U.S., on the other hand, hosts just 12 percent of global semiconductor manufacturing. Then there are the rising geopolitical tensions between Taiwan and China, which adds to the alarm.

Biden has ordered a sweeping review of U.S. supply chain weak spots and is open to talks about domestic production. But new semiconductor factories cannot be set up within a short period. They are among the most complex manufacturing facilities to take years to build and cost billions of dollars to construct. In the meantime, the chip shortages have led auto industries to slash production, threatening jobs at the auto companies and their suppliers.

Why has the supply chain issue hit auto manufacturers so hard?

Auto manufacturers use many chips in their manufacturing process. But these are older designs made years ago when auto manufacturers began using electronics to control automobiles to replace older mechanical controls. Car companies undergo lengthy internal checks to ensure safety and durability, so they are slow to update their components. Over time, the number of tiny chips known as microcontrollers increased.

But the chips for automobiles, though crucial, lead to lower profits for chip manufacturers. They are thus lower-priority items for semiconductor makers who can make more profit from new-age electronic items. They can profit from newer and more expensive semiconductors that power video game systems and 5G smartphones.

Semiconductor manufacturers began getting more orders from other industries instead of auto manufacturers. It was a matter of profit and capacity for them, so they started to reallocate production.

Once the lockdown eased a bit and people started venturing out, we saw a new trend. People are avoiding public transportation and looking to drive their cars instead. As a result, auto sales recovered, and a new demand for cars began, which the manufacturers did not foresee during the pandemic. Automakers placed chip orders once again, but they suddenly faced unprecedented bottlenecks.

Other global ripple effects

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China have had their own ripple effects. U.S. sanctions and restrictions in sales and tech exports to China’s biggest semiconductor manufacturers prompted the Chinese giants to stockpile chips. Others started doing the same and created a domino effect.

Taiwan’s TSMC and the nation itself are in talks with the U.S. government to reach an agreement and deal with this crisis. They face pressure to boost output and help resolve the chip shortage for automakers.

TSMC has been proactive in these talks and stated that the auto chip shortage is its top priority. It is looking at medium-to-longer-term engagement to enhance supply chain resilience, ensure that their capacity is fully utilized with demand from every sector, and support the worldwide automotive industry.

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Pull over, have no regrets: Teaching teens, young adults not to drive away from police

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According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), roughly one person is killed in a police pursuit every day in the United States. The fatalities include drivers who choose to flee from traffic stops and their passengers, law enforcement officers involved in the pursuit, and innocent bystanders who happened to be driving or walking in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A 2015 investigative story by USA Today found that annually, an average 329 people were killed in police pursuits between 1979 and 2013. In an analysis of NHTSA data from 2014 to 2018 by the Albuquerque-based Fine Law Firm, annual police pursuit deaths ranged from 386 per year to 427 per year — more than one per day.

More than half the fatalities in Fine’s study were young, ages 18 to 34. A police pursuit that ended with two teenaged fatalities near Kent, Indiana, last January is typical: An unlicensed 18-year-old boy refused to pull over for a traffic stop and led police on a 20-minute chase that ended in a crash that killed his two passengers, a 19-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy. The jailed teenaged driver faces charges of “resisting law enforcement causing death and reckless homicide.”

In 2002, Candy Priano and her husband were driving their 15-year-old daughter Kristie to a high school basketball game in Chico, California, when their minivan was T-boned in an intersection by a 17-year-old-girl fleeing a traffic stop.

The teenaged driver’s crime? Her mom had called police to report her daughter was using the family car without permission. The inexperienced driver blew through four stop signs in a residential neighborhood at high speed with a police cruiser hot on her trail before crashing into the Prianos.

Kristie was severely injured in the crash and died seven days later in the hospital. After their initial grieving, Priano and her husband became fierce advocates for reforming police pursuit policies.

In 2004, they nearly passed a reform bill, Kristie’s Law, in the California Senate. In 2007, they co-founded the nonprofit organization PursuitSafety, which continues to push for reform in pursuit policies as well as provide support to family members who’ve lost a loved one in a police pursuit.

Candy Priano

In a recent Zoom interview, Priano described how local police failed to communicate with her immediately after the accident. It happened 18 years ago but it might as well have been yesterday. For her, the grieving has never really stopped.

Back then, everything the family learned about the investigation came through local media, and with each new story, it became clear to her that the life of an innocent bystander — namely, her deceased daughter Kristie — didn’t count.

“The police weren’t talking to us,” she said. “Everything we learned came from the news media. Each new piece was worse than the one before.” There was no mention that the police pursuit of the 17-year-old driver for disobeying her mother might have been unnecessary. Nor was the driver immediately arrested.

“The police were building up a case to justify the chase,” Priano said. In doing so, they were “trying to erase my daughter, erase my existence.”

While Priano has sometimes found herself at odds with law enforcement officials over policy, PursuitSafety counts four retired police chiefs on its advisory board. Priano considers retired Bellevue, Washington, Police Chief D.P. Van Blaricom a mentor. Former California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joseph Farrow has endorsed PursuitSafety’s “Compassion Guide for Peace Officers,” a reference guide for law enforcement agencies to follow when fatalities occur as a result of a police pursuit.

The guidelines are shaped by families who’ve lost a loved one or had a family member seriously injured as a result of a police pursuit. The 10-page guide starts by recommending establishing a communications plan for police pursuits in advance and ensuring all victims of the crash receive prompt medical attention, including innocent bystanders. When the media becomes involved, it’s families first, according to the guide.

“Media coverage of the crash will begin within hours, at a time when the family has just heard the news or perhaps has not heard the news at all,” the reference guide states. “The story you give the media should not reveal details you have not shared with the family.”

Esther Seoanes and her late husband, James Williford

Esther Seoanes, who sits on PursuitSafety’s board of directors with Priano, lost her husband James Williford in 2012 as the result of a police pursuit. Police in Austin, Texas, attempted to arrest a shoplifting suspect but were led on a chase when the suspect, Reynaldo Hernandez, 37, stole a pickup truck from a parking lot. The chase ended when Hernandez, driving on the wrong side of the road and followed by police, crashed into Williford head-on, killing him.

“One thing that was really upsetting is that I never received a call from police,” said Seoanes, who joined Priano on the Zoom interview. “But there they were talking about it on the news,” she said. It was almost two weeks before police contacted her. On the other hand, “the media were knocking on my front door immediately.”

According to PursuitSafety, “Most drivers who flee are between the ages of 13 and 25.” In light of that, Priano and Seoanes have developed a presentation for teen driver’s education, “Pull Over, Have No Regrets.”

“Drive as if your life depends on it,” advises one informational flier for the program. “You will walk away from chase scenes in video games or movies. In real life, police chases can, and often do, end in violent crashes that kill, paralyze, or disfigures these people: innocent bystanders, the police, the fleeing driver, passengers in the car of the fleeing driver—brothers, sisters, or best friends.”

In a 1990 study, the U.S. Justice Department said police pursuits were “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities.” PursuitSafety notes that one third of the approximate 400 people killed annually are innocent bystanders. A law enforcement officer is killed every six to eight weeks in a pursuit.

Through its work with various police departments, PursuitSafety has developed a list of 10 things for the teen driver to do when pulled over by the police. The guidelines are worth reviewing here no matter how old you are.

  • Police officers are trained to ask for identification. Providing your documentation will simplify and speed up the process.
  • Remain in your vehicle unless the officer advises otherwise.
  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel so the officer can see them.
  • If the stop occurs during darkness, please turn on your dome light so that the officer can see that all is in order.
  • Avoid any sudden movements, especially toward the floorboard, rear seat, or passenger side of the vehicle.
  • Officers use bright spotlights for the safety of all persons involved. They are not meant to intimidate or embarrass you.
  • Comply with the officer’s request to see your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Most state motor-vehicle codes require you to display these items at the request of a police officer.
  • If your documents are out of reach, tell the officer where they are before you reach for them.
  • The officer may issue a ticket. If you feel the reason is unclear, ask for details.
  • If you do not agree with the citation, please do not argue at the scene. You have a right to contest the citation in court.

Priano and Seoanes have taken the “Pull Over, Have No Regrets” campaign to high school students and remain available as public speakers, although COVID-19 has curtailed speaking activities somewhat. Priano admits they don’t quite yet have the momentum of say, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Seoanes would like to collaborate with more people, including police agencies and paramedics.

“We need a connection with driver’s education, there’s a need to have some kind of check-off box,” Seoanes said. Although in recent years several states, including Illinois and North Carolina, have passed bills to include training on police stops in driver’s education courses, it remains very much a piecemeal effort nationwide, led by police departments and people like Priana and Seoanes who’ve lived through the tragedy a police pursuit can bring.

When Priano speaks to high school students and other audiences, she tells the crowd to whip out their cell phones and go through their photographs, all their friends, relatives and contacts.

“If you flee from the police, they’re going to be dead,” she tells them. “They don’t make it to the game.”

It’s a result she knows all too well, from experience.

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Harley-Davidson goes electric

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In the world of motorcycling, it’s no secret that Harley-Davidson — America’s oldest and most iconic bike-maker — has been struggling in recent years. Sagging sales have forced the Milwaukee-based manufacturer to pursue a new strategy. It’s an approach known internally as The Rewire, recently implemented by the brand’s new German-born CEO Jochen Zeitz. It paves the way for some significant changes at H-D.

The antiquarian thunder of Harley’s powerful-but-dated V-twin OHV engines is being slowly but seriously partnered with the subtle whine of electric power as the company introduces its first e-bikes.

The big news from Milwaukee — sure to inspire the company’s 1,400 dealers in nearly 100 countries around the world — was the July introduction of the LiveWire, a high-tech, low-slung electric motor-powered rocket that can scream from zero to 60 in 3 seconds and commands a price of nearly $30,000.

Critics immediately pronounced the machine overpriced at its list price of $29,795. But here’s what Wall Street Journal

motoring columnist Dan Neil had to say about that:

“Since the LiveWire is by my estimate the best sport-riding experience in the world,” wrote Neil, “and since it represents the renaissance of a great American brand, here and abroad, and since the LiveWire is the most hellacious power tool ever to come out of Milwaukee — a pleasure saw, a recreational ride-on belt sander, a high-torque scenery shredder — I think the price is fair.”

The bike comes with a 15.5 kWh battery pack that can be recharged by a DC fast charge to 80% capacity in 40 minutes or to full capacity in an hour. Charging from a standard household outlet is an overnight process. Stated range is 145 miles in the city, with a combined city/highway range of 95-100 miles.

The modern technology that produces the machine’s startling performance is sure to attract younger and more aggressive riders (“canyon racers” in the vernacular) and there are plenty of high-tech features on display, given a closer look.

The LiveWire is equipped with Reflex™ Defensive Rider Systems (RDRS). The systems’ various functions work together to give the rider more confidence and control in less-than-ideal conditions. RDRS manages the cornering-enhanced Anti-lock Braking System, Traction Control System and Drag-Torque Slip Control System by modulating torque available at the rear wheel. It combines electronic controls and hydraulics where required, utilizing the latest ABS sensor technology.

The LiveWire comes with four pre-programmed modes: sport, road, range and rain, along with three ride modes the rider can customize. Its forged aluminum frame provides high torsional strength with minimum weight. Suspension components are sourced from Showa and have a range of settings that allow the rider to dial in just the right amount of performance or comfort desired.

Using the Harley app, owners can monitor the status of their machines from afar and get an alert if anyone disturbs them when parked. A state-of-the-art digital display incorporates needed information as well as navigation assistance.

Also new to the Harley-Davidson lineup, and destined to be released in March 2021, is the Serial 1 — an electric bicycle inspired by the marque’s “Serial Number One” motorbike from 1903 — the company’s oldest known motorcycle.

The bike’s design, with its fat white tires, leather saddle and handgrips and sleek black frame, is intended to harken back to the original Serial 1. It’s a nostalgia play but also a serious effort to share in the booming e-bike market that experts say will top 130 million e-bikes sold globally between 2020 and 2023.

The Serial 1 has a mid-drive motor, a belt drive system, a frame-integrated battery, frame integrated headlight and taillights and internal brake lines and wiring.

Harley hasn’t offered up any specs as yet, so we can only guess about power levels, range and price — but the company says the price will be competitive with similar machines in the “few thousand-dollar range.” Harley also intends to spin off its e-bike division as a separate company called Serial 1 Cycle.

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Future vision for security mapped out by Airports Council International

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Airports Council International (ACI) recently unveiled its vision for airport security over the next two decades, which sets to map out how this important aspect of travel will adapt both in a post-COVID-19 era and as new technology becomes available.

Published on June 30, Smart Security Vision 2040 “sets the foundation for achieving a seamless airport security screening experience in a post-COVID-19 operational reality.”

So, what does this mean in reality? The Vision explores several long-term trends affecting aviation and airports, such as technology and how it is adapting to provide a safer, more efficient means of tracking threats and keeping passengers and aircraft safe.

Artificial intelligence is an old buzzword now, but it is coming into the fore with new applications surrounding airport security. Other key points to the Vision are stand-off detection, automated threat recognition and global information sharing.

While this work had been in the planning at ACI for some time, the final document has been swayed by, and leans heavily on, the reality of the COVID-19 outbreak and what it means for travelers.

Over the past two decades security has focused heavily on the threat from terrorism and physical attack. This is no less important going forward, but a new factor is the threat to passenger safety posed by the likes of the coronavirus.

As a result, new technology will play a big part in the future of security screening at airports.

ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said: “As the aviation industry continues to plan for a sustained recovery from unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, ACI believes that any initiative that utilises improved technology to facilitate touchless and more efficient passenger journeys needs to be accelerated.”

Building on this touchless aspect to screening, security of the future will become much more seamless, according to the Vision. Whether it will ever mean a completely pain-free, automated experience is unlikely. Don’t expect to avoid the long lines waiting to empty their belongings into a plastic tray just yet, but that day might be coming as screening technology improves at pace.

So called “big data” is starting to find its place, endeavoring to make passenger journeys quicker and easier, letting computers take much of the strain. We’ve already heard plenty about biometrics for passenger identification, and automatic tracking of passengers is being trialed at many airports. These measures have the potential to also track who is healthy and who is not.

“We hope Smart Security Vision 2040 will inspire a range of stakeholders, from airports to governments and manufacturers, to engage in thoughtful discussions about how best to achieve a better airport security future especially as we plan our long-term recovery from COVID-19,” Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.

Smart Security Vision 2040 is the first major work released under Luis Felipe de Oliviera, who takes over the helm of ACI from Angela Gittens after 12 years as director. She commented: “We can expect more innovations in the weeks, months and years ahead. Even before the COVID-19 disaster, we have looked ahead to what the airport world could be.”

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Airports face significant drop in revenues through the end of 2020

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Even with bailouts and airlines easing out of lockdown, airports across the globe are facing a significant drop in revenues, which could challenge their futures and put on hold any ambitious growth or redevelopment plans until profits return.

As the dust settles to some degree and airlines start increasing schedules this month, airports and analysts are beginning to assess the damage that has been caused through months of the coronavirus lockdown.

Airports Council International (ACI), which called for urgent relief for the aviation industry last month, has said it expects airport revenues to fall by around 50% this year as a response to passenger numbers falling by a similar amount.

Around $97 billion could be lost from airport revenues globally by the end of 2020.

While larger passenger hub airports will see the most significant share of revenue losses thanks to coronavirus, leading to a daunting road ahead while trying to recover to pre-virus levels, it is the smaller airports which have lost a larger share of passengers and are left in a more precarious position.

So far, all the major carriers in the United States have dropped certain cities from their network, with the Department of Transportation rallying to ensure no city is left without any air service at all.

Airports operating in different sectors, or actively diversifying into them, will likely suffer a softer blow. Air cargo is on the rise, and those airports operating as freight hubs are among the busiest in the world right now.

Others in the aircraft storage, dismantling or maintenance sectors are also seeing more revenue streams to stem losses elsewhere.

Those airports which rely entirely on the passenger journey for income (through car parking, concessions, and passenger airline charges) will have the more difficult time recovering from the crisis.

John Holland-Kaye, London Heathrow’s CEO, said: “Our industry is struggling. It’s hard to imagine that 2019 was our busiest year ever with 81 million passengers. Now only five months into 2020, we are operating from a single runway and consolidating our operations into only two terminals. Daily passenger numbers have also shrunk to the thousands. This is a major crisis for global aviation and no one can be sure of how fast we will recover from it.”

With many high, fixed costs, airports are looking to address revenue losses by removing any unavoidable costs, halting any infrastructure works that are not necessary, closing down or consolidating parts of their facilities (such as runways and terminals), and looking to staff job or wage cuts.

San Diego Airport, which has received $54 million in federal funding, is trying to cut expenses by $29 million as it puts together a spending plan. It has seen passengers down around 85% during May and expects around 50% of its normal volume for the remainder of the year. By reducing some of its services, halting professional fees and deferring some refurbishment works it hopes to stem some of the loss.

Across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions it is a similar story, with passenger figures as low as 8% of normal in April and a significant drop in revenues. Airports there are calling for loans, guarantees, tax cuts and government support to see them through.

With international travel most affected, airports are hoping to see some recovery from domestic travel where quarantine and cross-border restrictions are not in place.

Many are working with airline partners to offer solutions which benefit all, relieving them of some contractual obligations and airport fees as an encouragement to keep flying. However, the road to recovery will be long and difficult for many to get through.

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Why new crash response programs are important for law enforcement

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In 2018, the NYPD rolled out its Staten Island pilot program for responding to crashes and drew mixed responses for it. Under this program, police officers in the area only responded to vehicle crashes that involve personal injuries and not property damage.

Deeming it a successful pilot program, the department recently announced plans to expand it to the other four boroughs of New York City. Since the department stopped responding to all crash sites in Staten Island, officers can now opt to focus on priority jobs and tasks. As a result, officers’ response times to serious crash sites have improved.

For years, NYPD officers have used the Directed Accident Response Program (DARP) for vehicles that sustain damage in crashes. Under this program, damaged cars are removed from the scene by private towing companies when summoned by the officers. However, those calls have decreased with no officers responding to vehicular crashes without injuries.

Now, motorists in Staten Island are handling the situations themselves, and not all are calling towing companies. Some choose to drive away in the mangled cars with airbags still deployed, dangling parts and leaking fluid, all of which are dangerous things to do.

Another issue is that motorists who exchange information and drive away are producing conflicting, false, or exaggerated statements. Without a police report, crashes become cases of he said, she said. Insurance agencies are having a hard time settling each case quickly.

While these misgivings are logical, as far as the officers are concerned, the new program has helped them streamline their operations and prioritize human lives. Law enforcement officers have to secure the scene first and foremost. They are also trained to provide emergency medical aid until help arrives, assist disabled motorists, and keep personal property safe. This administration of medical aid can be a lifesaver.

Once paramedics arrive, officers’ focus shifts to accident investigations, directing traffic, and supervising scene clearance. Their planned and coordinated multidisciplinary process is focused on clearing traffic incidents so that traffic flow may be restored as safely and quickly. Timely management of an accident site improves the safety of crash victims and other motorists as well.

Now that Staten Island officers are not inundated with all kinds of emergency calls, they can respond faster to serious accident sites and help victims. Looking at the efficacy of this program, the department feels that it is now time to expand the same to other areas of New York.

Lack of sufficient funding, budget cuts, and a shortage of resources for police departments are not news anymore. For them to work efficiently amid such challenges, innovative measures like the pilot program are essential. Many other departments and agencies are coming up with such unique measures to handle nonemergency calls as well.

The Bakersfield Police Department in California has created a Burglary Response Team to counter its workforce shortage. The newly assembled six-member team, which also has a Police Service Technician, will help reduce response times to nonemergency calls.

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Real ID set to affect who can and cannot fly

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While the concept may be controversial, those who fly in the U.S. still have to get onboard with identification. Identity cards are more consistent with what’s portrayed in films about travelers trying to wend their way through World War II Europe than something we would see making its way to America.

However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to remind travelers that the upcoming Real ID requirement and enforcement will start Oct. 1, 2020. At that time, every air traveler must present a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or other acceptable form of identification, such as a valid passport or U.S. military ID, to fly within the United States. Individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.

“This is an important step in enhancing commercial aviation security and we urge travelers to ensure they have compliant documents,” said Acting DHS Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan just before resigning. He stepped down late last year after spending his six-month tenure trying to curb crossings at the southwestern border in the midst of an embattled relationship with White House policy intent on restricting immigration.

In January 2017, only 26 states were Real ID compliant. Through voluntary partnerships with state governments, associations, DMVs, and other stakeholders across all jurisdictions, DHS says that 47 out of 50 states are currently Real ID compliant. However, only 27% of Americans have been issued a Real ID at the current time.

The policy has come under scrutiny by civil rights groups and even the U.S. Travel Association’s (USTA) Brand USA, the official inbound department of tourism for the U.S. It is not something all members of the public can easily manage and reflects shades of national identity cards that are so important to militaristic societies.

The USTA launched a campaign last month to improve public awareness of the ramifications of this requirement after a study found an estimated 182 million Americans are unlikely to have a Real ID by the deadline.

“In fact, if Real ID standards were enforced today, 99 million Americans would not have an acceptable alternative ID, and almost 80,000 American travelers would be denied boarding on the first day. If that trend were to continue for a week, over half a million travelers would be turned away, which would cost as much as $300 million in lost travel,” said Tori Barnes, U.S. Travel EVP of Public Affairs and Policy, in a media call.

The USTA has promoted its position to the media and testified in Congress, in efforts to mitigate negative effects of Real ID and other policies, such as not turning away travelers at security checkpoints and moving away from aggressive pat downs.

Meanwhile, the DHS has been working to increase public focus on the upcoming deadline. The department is displaying signs at airports notifying the public of changing requirement.

In August, TSA began verbally advising travelers who present non-compliant licenses of the upcoming Real ID requirement and enforcement date. TSA has also co-hosted Real ID events with motor vehicle administration officials in numerous locations around the country throughout the spring and summer, with more to come.

Real ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. Michigan, Vermont, Minnesota, and New York states issue both Real ID and state-issued enhanced driver’s licenses, both of which are acceptable. Washington state issues enhanced driver’s licenses only. These documents will be accepted at the airport security checkpoint when the Real ID enforcement goes into effect.

Passed by Congress in 2005, the Real ID Act implements the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.”

The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards for official purposes, such as at airport security checkpoints. The regulations established the deadline of October 1, 2020, to ensure full enforcement of the Real ID Act.

Real IDs carry the same information current driver’s license, along with a variety of safeguards to make them more difficult to counterfeit. To receive one, however, applicants must meet a new federal standards proving they are who they say they are and live where they say they live.

That means face-to-face applications, an identity document, such as a passport or a certified birth certificate; verification like a Social Security card or an income tax return; and proof of state residence in, perhaps, a utility bill, with name and address. Passports will work most of the time but might not be convenient to carry around. Those without Real ID might also be banned from entering federal buildings and courthouses.

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FAA seeks to take back the skies from rogue drones

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For the past few years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had a growing problem with unidentified flying objects. Not the kind with little green men, but rather unmanned (and unregistered) aerial vehicles (UAVs) — “drones” for short.

Originally designed for military applications, drones are now used widely for a variety of jobs, including aerial surveillance, bridge inspections, wedding photography, package delivery, and any other situation in which eyes in the sky or quick transport are required.

Beyond that, the FAA estimates there are approximately 1.5 million registered drones flying around the United States, and that number will only grow as the technology becomes more sophisticated and less expensive for consumers.

For all the good that drones can do, they also bring some dangers with them, especially when piloted by ignorant or irresponsible owners. In 2018, firefighting crews in Colorado (not for the first time) were forced to suspend aerial operations after a civilian flew an unauthorized craft into the airspace to get a closer look at an ongoing wildfire. And airports around the world have been forced on multiple occasions to delay or divert flights due to unexpected drone activity nearby. (If you think that’s an overreaction, consider US Airways Flight 1549, which was forced to make an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River after a flock of geese struck the plane in flight.)

So how does the government keep track of more than a million remote-controlled flying machines? The answer, at least until recently, is “not very well.”

While drones have been available for civilians to purchase for more than a decade, it wasn’t until 2015 that the FAA made drone registration a requirement, also stipulating that any drone must have a unique identifying number marked somewhere on it that can be traced back to its pilot. While many commercial and hobbyist users have complied with this rule, it’s done relatively little to stop certain users from engaging in disruptive flights.

Now, the FAA is stepping up its efforts. Late last year, the administration rolled out a long-awaited proposal that would allow it to track drones in real time through a remote ID system. According to the proposal, all drones that fall under the rule — which would be most commercial and hobbyist models — would be required to broadcast their information over the internet to the FAA and directly from the machine itself. Registered drones would have three years to comply with the rule from the time it goes into effect.

While the FAA calls the remote ID rule “a critical element for building unmanned traffic management capabilities,” the industry is not as optimistic, particularly when it comes to privacy concerns and costs. In a response published on its website, popular drone manufacturer DJI said that while it supports remote ID, the current proposal misses the mark.

“[W]hat if instead of just a license plate, your car was also legally required to be connected via the internet to a privately run car-tracking service that charged you an annual fee of about 20% of your car’s value, and stored six months of your driving data for government scrutiny? Would you think the government had gone too far?” Brendan Schulman, VP of policy and legal affairs at DJI, wrote.

Even those who support the proposal’s aim have complaints.

“Our main concern is the implementation period, which is needlessly up to 3 years. Until remote ID is implemented, the American public will be deprived of many of the vast safety, humanitarian and efficiency benefits of commercial drones,” said Lisa Ellman, executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance, in an interview with CNBC. “We need implementation yesterday, not 3 years from now.”

The comment period for the proposal closes on March 2.

Regardless of the specifics, everyone seems to agree on one point: Increased accountability is necessary to keep our skies safe, especially as drones become a bigger part of American life.

“Drones are the fastest growing segment of transportation in our nation and it is vitally important that they are safely integrated into the national airspace,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

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How Tokyo’s Narita Airport is battling the growth of Haneda

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Narita International Airport in Tokyo has seen a shift of traffic in recent years to Haneda Airport, which is closer to the city and regarded as more convenient. In order to recapture some of the market, Narita has unveiled a number of incentives and growth plans to attract airlines and passengers back to its runways.

Opened in 1978, New Tokyo International Airport (as Narita was then known) was a controversial solution to overcrowding at Haneda. It quickly became the main gateway for international flights into Japan’s capital.

In recent years, however, the opening of more slots for international carriers at Haneda – which by now has more runways and terminals – has meant airlines leaving Narita, which is 37 miles from Tokyo, for the convenience of Haneda, which is less than nine miles away.

Recent moves by Narita have seen proposals submitted to build a third runway at the airport, increasing its aircraft movement capacity to 500,000 per year when it opens in 2030. It will also extend the length of its current second runway to be able to handle larger airliners.

The airport has also reduced its night time movement restrictions, opening up its runways from 5:00 a.m. to midnight. This has added an additional 78 daily slots.

In a recent blow, both of Japan’s national carriers, ANA All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, have announced many key international routes will be transferred from Narita to Haneda Airport from March this year.

As a result, Narita has introduced an incentive program to attract new routes. The program offers free landing fees for any new route of greater than 7,000 km distance to a destination not yet served from Narita. Any new route must commence between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2020, and incentives will reduce over successive years to 70% discount in year two, and 40% discount in year three.

For airlines already operating at Narita, an incentive offering a 50% discount on incremental landing charges for introducing larger aircraft on the route will be introduced.

So far one new airline has announced a new long-haul route to Narita. Israel’s El Al will begin a Boeing 787 service from Tel Aviv from March 11, while other carriers are reportedly in discussion with the airport.

However, Japan Airlines has not abandoned its Narita hub completely. It will reintroduce flights to San Francisco in 2020, as well as launching its new low-cost, long-haul product named ZIPAIR Tokyo, which will base its aircraft at the airport, flying initially to Bangkok and Seoul.

After welcoming a record 42 million passengers in 2018, Narita remains Japan’s second-busiest airport. The loss of key international routes to Haneda will undoubtedly see a blip in growth in 2020, potentially offset by the introduction of ZIPAIR as well as extra flights anticipated for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Moves to make the airport more attractive to passengers and open to new business are key to maintaining Narita’s competitiveness. Work on the new runway is expected to begin next year. Expect more route announcements as airlines take advantage of the incentive being offered.

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Struggling Atlantic City Airport is subject of future ownership study

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Steps to throw New Jersey’s struggling Atlantic City Airport a lifeline have taken a step forward with the appointment of a consultancy firm to further study whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) should take over the facility.

Situated inland of the Atlantic coast gambling resort and its famous Boardwalk, Atlantic City Airport was founded as a Naval Air Station in 1942 and at present is served by only one carrier — Spirit Airlines, which flies to leisure destinations in Florida on a few daily flights.

Attempts by other carriers to introduce airline service to the airport have all failed, with United Airlines the most recent to abandon proposed routes before the first plane even took off (to Houston and Chicago), citing low demand.

AirTran, Continental, Delta and Air Canada have all tried service to Atlantic City and ultimately pulled out.

Having previously been ordered to take over the airport in 2013, PANYNJ — which operates Newark, JFK, Teterboro and Stewart airports, but doesn’t own any of them — is once again in the running to come to the rescue of the ailing airport and provide a boost to the dwindling local economy.

The South Jersey Transportation Authority are the current owners of Atlantic City Airport, with PANYNJ jointly managing it with private firm VINCI Airports, who are contracted to handle the general and commercial aviation side until 2021.

With only 1.1 million passengers using the airport in 2018 (a figure which has remained fairly static since 2007, with a high of 1.4 million in 2010), the takeover is not just about padding out the airline offerings and route network.

Naturally, locals want more choice and connectivity, and the region would benefit from more inbound visitors if the demand exists. PANYNJ would naturally try to position Atlantic City as an alternative New York gateway as well as an alternative airport for residents of Philadelphia. Yet the aim of a takeover would also be about taking advantage of the potential in the whole airport site.

Blessed with a 10,000-foot runway, there’s little Atlantic City (which is also used by the Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing) cannot handle in terms of aircraft. An application was even submitted earlier this year to consider the airport as a future spaceport.

Members of the board have already met to discuss their hope that the development of an aviation maintenance facility be considered, as well as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Smart Airport Test Bed Facility.

At a meeting in July, Atlantic City freeholder Frank Formica said, “Instead of looking at this as just the PANYNJ coming in to take over another airport, it can be seen as a big opportunity to do something with an area that is diversifying its economy with the tremendous opportunity through the jobs that we created through the training at Stockton University and Embry Riddle (Aeronautical University).”

Atlantic City and PANYNJ are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the feasibility study, which could pave the way for a full takeover, but would depend on the future of the existing VINCI Airports contract and consensus on the future direction of the airport.

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