This week, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, the US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L Chao announced that the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has created a deliberative body: the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council.
The NETT will identify and resolve 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 innovations that have multi-modal applications,” said Secretary Chao.
The USDOT 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 USDOT 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 USDOT do not impede the deployment of new technology. Furthermore, it will give project sponsors a single point of access to discuss plans and proposals.
The NETT Council represents a major step forward for the USDOT 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 USDOT 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.