The South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, began life as a celebration of music, art, film and ideas. Today, the annual event has also become a Hot Spot for new introducing new technology and ideas into mainstream culture as well. Given that evolution, it’s not surprising to learn that the U.S. Secretary of Transportation used the venue to announce the launch of a new council to support emerging transportation technology.
And U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao did just that at South by Southwest this year, announcing the creation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council.
Chao billed the new group as an internal deliberative body at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) 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, during remarks at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference. “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 told attendees during her speech.
Chao noted that the DOT consists of 11 operating administrations, each with its own traditional jurisdiction over certain environmental and regulatory approvals. New technologies may not always fit precisely into the Department’s existing regulatory structure, potentially resulting in a slower pace of transportation innovation. Inventors and investors approach the DOT to obtain necessary safety authorizations, permits, and funding and often face uncertainty about how to coordinate with the Department.
The NETT Council will address these challenges by ensuring that the traditional modal silos at the DOT do not impede the deployment of new technology. Furthermore, it will give project sponsors a single point of access to discuss plans and proposals.
According to Chao, the NETT Council represents a major step forward for the DOT in reducing regulatory burdens and paving the way for emerging technologies in the transportation industry. The internal council will hold its organizing meeting this week and will first take on the topic of tunneling technologies seeking various approvals in several states.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation held a series of interactive sessions and demonstrations at SXSW to showcase the Department’s overarching efforts to support innovation and market solutions to address transportation challenges across the country. Learn more about the Department’s presence at SXSW here.