Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Consumer Electronics Show

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Consumer Electronics Show
Las Vegas, Nevada
Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Thank you, Gary.  It is a pleasure to be back here at CES!  And I would like to recognize the Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, Jane Williams, who is in the audience.             

The American story is intertwined with transportation innovations.  Advancements in seaports, canals and river navigation during the 17th and 18th centuries enabled commerce and leveraged America’s extensive waterway assets.  In the 19th century, steam engine-powered boats and railway locomotives dramatically opened up the western frontier.  During the 20th century, the automobile’s potential was expanded with the building of the Interstate Highway System.  And we harnessed the sky and space.

The need and quest for more, better -- and safer -- transportation technologies never stops. 

Take automobiles, for example.  They’ve changed a great deal over the decades.  Thank goodness!   In significant part because of vehicle technology advancements, annual traffic fatalities have declined 33 percent since 1972.  That achievement occurred while vehicles miles traveled increased  156 percent! The fatality rate in 1972 was nearly four times higher than it is today.  And one thing we know is that newer cars are safer cars.  Our data shows that your chances of surviving a serious crash nearly double if you’re in a new car, than if you’re in a car that’s 18 or more years old. 

Further improving traffic safety remains our greatest, ongoing transportation challenge.  So it is heartening to see in recently released traffic crash data that 2018 marked the second consecutive year of declining crash fatalities.  Initial data for the first three-quarters of 2019 indicate another yearly decline.  Progress is being made.

In the past few years, several remarkable safety technologies have become commonly available in new cars, including:  blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings and automatic braking systems. 

These driver-assist technologies are instrumental in automated vehicles – which are among the most exciting, ongoing developments in transportation today.  Automated Vehicles will, someday, advance traffic safety as they transform surface transportation. 

Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, annually.  And improve the quality of life through reduced traffic congestion, increased productivity and environmental benefits.  AVs would restore mobility for millions of people who face transportation challenges, such as the elderly and the disabled.     

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided guidance on the development of Automated Vehicles.  It was called: “Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety.”  In 2018, DOT addressed AV development across all surface transportation modes.  That was entitled: “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0.”

Today, I am pleased to announce the release of: “AV 4.0 – Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies.”  AV 4.0 is a joint White House and U.S. Department of Transportation initiative. 

The takeaway from AV 4.0 is that the federal government is all in -- for safer, better and more inclusive transportation, aided by automated driving systems. 

AV 4.0 unifies AV efforts across 38 Federal departments, independent agencies, commissions, and Executive Offices of the President.  It recognizes the value of private sector leadership in AV research, development, and integration. Such innovation requires appropriate government oversight to ensure safety, open markets, strategic allocation of public resources, and protection of the public interest. Realizing the vast potential of AVs will require collaboration and information sharing among industry partners, state and local governments, academia, non-profits, standards development organizations, and the federal government.

AV 4.0 will inform collaborative efforts in automated vehicles for all stakeholders and outlines federal government efforts to address areas of concern. AV 4.0 establishes U.S. government principles organized around three core interests and their components.

The #1 Principle is:  Protect Users and Communities.  AV technologies are not yet advanced enough to enable wide-scale deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.  As development continues in the years ahead, the federal government’s areas of focus in protecting users and communities will be to:

  1. Prioritize safety.  Safety is always #1 at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  2. Emphasize security and cybersecurity.
  3. Ensure privacy and data security.
  4. Enhance mobility and accessibility.

#2 Principle:  Promote Efficient Markets.  It should not be the federal government’s place to pick winners or losers, so Principle #2 entails:

  1. Remaining Technology Neutral.
  2. Protecting American Innovation and Creativity – by protecting intellectual property.
  3. Modernizing Regulations.

#3 Principle:  Facilitate Coordinated Efforts.

  1. Promote Consistent Standards and Policies
  2. Ensure a Consistent Federal Approach
  3. Improve Transportation System-Level Effects

As stated in the report’s cover letter: “The landscape for AV innovation is complex and evolving.”  But the goals are simple, clear and consistent:  Improve safety, security and quality of life -- for all Americans.  That is the barometer of success.  And that will be the result of these and other transportation initiatives and innovations currently underway. 

Innovation is occurring across all modes of transportation.  Aviation is experiencing tremendous growth of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones.  Surveying, search and rescue, agriculture applications and delivery of packages and passengers are just a few of the current and future uses of drones.

There are now over 1.5 million drones, and 160,000 remote pilots are now registered with the FAA.  The Department is charting a course for the safe integration of these innovations into our national airspace.  These initiatives include allowing drone testing in a variety of environments; advancing drone airspace management, and developing a framework for remote drone ID, which has security implications.

The Department of Transportation recently announced a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for Remote Identification of drones.  The proposed Remote ID rule would apply to all drones over 0.55 pounds that are required to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration.  Remote ID will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and Federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction. 

As the FAA and operators move towards a traffic management system for drones, remote ID technologies will help lay the foundation for the safe deployment of more complex drone operations.  These include beyond visual line of sight at low altitudes. 

The 60-day public comment period ends March 2, 2020.  Recent news reports out of Colorado and Nebraska of mystery drones flying in formations at night is a timely illustration of why Remote I.D.s are needed. 

Space transportation innovation is also taking off (pardon the pun) thanks to re-usable rockets, air-launch systems, and other private sector initiatives.  Six years ago, the U.S. was third behind Russia and China in commercial space launches.  Today, the U.S. is Number One in commercial space launches.  In 2019, there were 34 U.S. launches and re-entries and the global space economy’s value is approaching $400 billion annually. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation is streamlining launch and reentry licensing processes to enable further growth in the space sector.  Outdated and cumbersome licensing regulations and launch procedures are being overhauled.  An Office of Spaceports has been established.  There will be even more major rulemakings in this arena, later this year.

So as you can plainly see -- in displays at CES, on America’s roads, and in our skies -- exciting transportation advancements are occurring.  Transportation today is synonymous with innovation.  And transportation is going to be as instrumental in America’s future as it has been since our nation’s founding.   And, now Michael Kratsios will give more details on AV 4.0.

Thank you.