Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg outlines 6 principles for balancing innovation, federal role

Industry

The U.S. Department of Transportation has set six guiding principles for balancing the federal government’s role with ongoing innovation in the transportation sector.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg unveiled the principles Thursday during a virtual keynote at CES.

“As policymakers, we have to prioritize,” Buttigieg said.

“We need to assess which important innovations will develop on their own and which require federal support for basic research,” he continued. We must consider when a technology should be given as much room as possible to develop on an experimental basis and when it’s reached the point when it raises concerns that require regulation to keep people safe.”

The principles will help set a strategy for the department’s approach to innovation in transportation, especially as companies deploy more advanced automated technology on vehicles and continue to develop and test self-driving cars.

Through its principles, the department will focus on an innovation strategy that:

• Serves key policy priorities, such as creating economic opportunity, enabling equitable access to transportation and addressing climate change.

• Supports workers.

• Fosters U.S. competitiveness through reliable and adaptive transportation systems and infrastructure.

• Allows for experimentation and learns from setbacks.

• Provides opportunities for collaboration among the public, private and academic sectors.

• Favors flexible policies that can adapt as technology evolves.

For infrastructure projects funded by the department, Buttigieg said his office will be evaluating those projects based on the six principles.

“These principles will ensure that the enormous potential of U.S. transportation innovation serves to benefit our nation and its people,” he said. “We’re looking forward to discussing this more with scholars, organized labor, safety advocates, private sector technologists and other stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead.”

The secretary said the department will be launching a new way to better engage with non-federal partners and will have more details soon.

The six principles come after NHTSA — an agency of the transportation department — issued an order last year requiring automakers and other operators of vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems or fully automated-driving systems to report crashes where the system was engaged “during or immediately before the crash.”

Buttigieg said the department is working to establish new testing standards and create a national incident database for crashes involving autonomous vehicles. It also is evaluating potential workforce and equity concerns related to AVs.

“It’s not the job of policymakers to guess or to dictate how and when these advancements unfold,” Buttigieg said. “But our role in supporting, fostering and safeguarding the work of transportation innovation is vital, and it comes at an exceptionally important time in the story of American transportation.”

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