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NHTSA Administrator’s Awards Ceremony

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
NHTSA Administrator's Award Ceremony
Washington, DC
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Thank you, James, for the introduction and for your work as Acting NHTSA Administrator!

Thank you for inviting me to join your awards ceremony today!  This is one of the favorite parts of my job!  I love celebrating our people and our accomplishments! 

I view part of my job as amplifying your accomplishments and activities.  And I’m especially interested in promoting NHTSA’s public safety campaigns. 

NHTSA has an important role in innovation and the transportation system of the future.  Automated vehicles (AV) are challenging us with new perspectives about how best to promote safety, security and privacy! Research and analysis have shown that 94% of crashes involve human error. The appeal of AVs is the potential to save thousands of lives every year and improve quality of life. AVs could restore mobility for millions of people who face transportation challenges, such as the elderly and the disabled. Our role is to ensure that safety is prioritized. So, the department appreciates all of your work on the latest AV guidance – “AV 4.0 – Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies.”

And thank you for your efforts this year on the One National Rule program. Reclaiming NHTSA’s dominant legislative role on this issue has been a key concern of the Department.  NHTSA is once again fully at the table.  I want to commend the team that has worked on this issue.

As more new technologies emerge which straddle multiple modes, the Department needs to work together as one entity, enhancing cooperation, collaboration and  teamwork across the modes. This is why the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council, The NETT Council was established – to facilitate the preparation for the transportation system of the future

As I hope you know, my key priorities are 1)  safety, safety is always #1, 2)  rebuilding and refurbishing our country’s critical infrastructure to improve efficiency, economic competitiveness and quality of life, and 3) engaging with new technologies to address legitimate concerns about safety, security and privacy without hampering innovation.

You play an important role in all three.

NHTSA was founded 50 years ago and today’s vehicles are safer than ever before.  In 2012, vehicles had a 56% lower fatality risk than in the 1950s. After roadway fatalities rose in 2015 and 2016, in 2018, we saw a 2.4 percent decline. And preliminary estimates for the first three quarters of 2019 show that downward trend is continuing.  In particular, there have been notable declines in speeding-related fatalities and alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.  NHTSA’s public awareness campaigns are playing a role in reducing these numbers.

In addition, NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which turned 40 last year, is also helping! The NCAP program and safety rating system are now replicated around the world, a reflection of the respect with which NHTSA is held internationally.

Many new vehicles on the road today also include ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems), which have the potential to dramatically improve driver safety.

This past January 15th, I announced the expansion of the PARTS program, PARTS-2, which will expand participation to nearly 70 percent of the U.S. automobile market.  By allowing third-party data sharing, private sector partners can learn from each other to resolve safety issues before they arise. 

NHTSA is also enabling the use of cutting-edge technology by our first responders through the First Responder Safety Technology Pilot Program. This program helps prevent emergency vehicle crashes—another important pro-active safety tool.

Congratulations to today’s awardees!  Thank you, NHTSA, for keeping us safe and helping to envision the transportation system of the future!

I am pleased to announce that this year’s NHTSA Employee of the Year is Robert Kreeb .

Robert is the Chief for the Electronic Systems Safety Research Division within the Office of Vehicle Safety Research.  His work focuses on the agency’s safety mission by leading safety research in cybersecurity, automated driving systems, and connected vehicle communications.  He’s made critical contributions to the agency’s work on vehicle-to-vehicle communications and spectrum.

Robert started his career at General Motors, where he worked as a design engineer. He graduated from the General Motors Institute with a degree in mechanical engineering and holds an MBA from Duke University.

Robert, congratulations.

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