- U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao announced the creation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council (NETT) during a session at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX on Tuesday.
- Chao said since the government currently has "a 20th century organizational structure for 21st century technologies," NETT will help address modal silos at the DOT and ensure emerging transportation technologies like hyperloop and autonomous vehicles (AVs) receive proper review and support.
- NETT, which will be chaired by Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, is expected to hold its first planning meeting this week.
As cities increasingly explore the possibilities of hyperloop and advanced tunneling systems, the NETT will be a crucial stakeholder in commercializing the technology and ensuring its safe and streamlined deployment.
Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Wadler praised Chao's efforts to develop the new council, saying in a statement, "We want to be the company that spearheads the next giant leap forward in transportation here in the United States but we know we can’t do it alone." Elon Musk's Boring Company also has developed significant plans to build hyperloop systems in cities including Los Angeles and Chicago, but such plans have not yet come to fruition.
Chao has also championed the deployment of AVs and has long highlighted the importance of regulating that technology. In October 2018, she released the Automated Vehicles 3.0 guidance, which updated federal guidelines to allow automakers to test AVs without human controls. Chao has been critical of automakers' participation in AV deployment, however, and in January called on Silicon Valley to "step up" and do more to educate the public about AVs. She echoed these comments during her SXSW session, in which she challenged those in Silicon Valley to "share with us their confidence and their comfort with the new technology, because consumer acceptance will be a constraint to growth," as reported by the Austin American-Statesman.
Chao also highlighted the need for the federal government to "address the legitimate public concerns about safety" in regards to transportation during her SXSW discussion. These comments come at an interesting time, as Chao faces criticism for defending the FAA's decision to continue the use of Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes for commercial flights, despite a deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash involving that aircraft this week.