New technology seems to pop up faster than most of us have time to review it.
The U.S. Department of Transportation seems to be in the same space.
To address the issue and have a say in its development, at the recent South by Southwest conference, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced the creation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council.
This internal body at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is tasked with identifying and resolving jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede the deployment of new technology, such as tunneling, hyperloop, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations.
“New technologies increasingly straddle more than one mode of transportation, so I’ve signed an order creating a new internal Department council to better coordinate the review of innovation that have multi-modal applications,” said Secretary Chao.
Coordination is key in that the DOT consists of 11 operating administrations, each with its own traditional jurisdiction over certain environmental and regulatory approvals.
This bureaucracy could get in the way transportation innovation, according to a release from the DOT. “Inventors and investors approach USDOT to obtain necessary safety authorizations, permits, and funding and often face uncertainty about how to coordinate with the Department.”
“The NETT Council represents a major step forward in reducing regulatory burdens and paving the way for emerging technologies in the transportation industry,” as reported by The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials journal.
While ensuring that technologies are able to move forward the issue of safety is a top priority. At the conference, Secretary Chao said there as a need for the federal government to "address the legitimate public concerns about safety," as reported by Smart Cities Dive.
Safety issues, of course, have been front and center due to the issue of accidents involving autonomous cars. In October of 2018, Chao introduced guidelines for automated vehicles, advancing its “commitment to supporting the safe integration of automation into the broad multimodal surface transportation system. ‘P
The update, which pertains to trucks, transit systems, cars and trains, highlights six central principles. They indicate that DOT will:
• Prioritize safety.
• Remain technology neutral.
• Modernize regulations.
• Encourage consistent regulations.
• Prepare proactively for automation.
• Protect the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.
“Integrating the autonomous vehicle technology into our transportation system has the potential to increase productivity, facilitate freight movement and create new types of jobs,” Chao said.
The new council seems to be the lastest in Chao's efforts to have some control over the continued evolution of this new technology.