This past week Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao spoke to a group marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Secretary made several remarks that are very important to our mission at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the importance of technology.
· Today, we are seeing a technological revolution that will change the way we work, live, travel, and conduct commerce, and this Department has an unprecedented opportunity to help shape that future for our country.
· This technology has the potential to change our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Today the infrastructure we all grew up with is aging. Technology, the great disruptor, is creating a new type of transport based on digital – not human – command and control. In the future, computers, not people will be in the driver’s seat. That means “self-driving” cars, trucks, railroad cars, ships and drones.
· The trend of ownership of personal vehicles is evolving. Many people may choose ride sharing in self-driving cars over personal ownership. Design and construction of future buildings, therefore, will not need as much parking space as they do today. Self-driving cars and trucks will talk to each other – vehicle-to-vehicle communication – and keep a safe distance reducing the number of highway fatalities. Our infrastructure will be “smart” like our phones – so it can talk to and direct all of the vehicles around it. Around the world drones are already inspecting agriculture, delivering packages and improving railway, pipeline and shipping safety. And new, satellite-based guidance systems will make aviation more reliable and safer. Long delays at the airport will become the exception rather than the rule.
· Emerging technology also requires a regulatory approach that ensures safety, while encouraging innovation and preserving creativity. This last point is especially important. Creativity and innovation are part of the genius of America – one of its hallmarks. We must safeguard and nurture this legacy. But it also important that Silicon Valley step up and share with the public their understanding of automated technology, and address legitimate public concerns about safety and privacy.
· As the former Secretary of Labor, I am concerned about the impact of technology on workers and jobs. Smart technology will still require human interaction to function at its best. But the new jobs will require higher skills and digital literacy. So education and job training will be more important than before. We need to help ease the transition.
We are so pleased to hear what Secretary Chao said, especially coming just days after many of the ITS America Board of Directors and Advocacy Trust members met with her key staff in Washington, D.C. We will continue our outreach to the USDOT’s leadership, working on many of these key initiatives.