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Who We Are

HASS COE brings together knowledge across USDOT, academia, and industry on highly automated transportation systems, exploring new technologies and their potential impact on safety. Based in the USDOT Office of Research and Technology, our office and its expert staff complement and augment each USDOT Operating Administration’s own resources, especially where automation systems intersect across multiple modes of transportation. By engaging academia and industry as partners in safety, we inform a safe national framework for highly automated systems, today and tomorrow. 



Advance the safe and responsible integration of automation across the transportation ecosystem.


Ensure federal capacity to review, assess, and validate the safety of automated technologies comprehensively across modes while enabling cross-sector collaboration for a holistic approach to the safe integration of automation in transportation.

Congressional Mandate

In Congressional order H.R. 1865, Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (2019), Congress mandated that HASS COE provide support and partnership to USDOT Operating Administrations in reviewing, assessing, and validating the safety of highly automated systems. Congress directed HASS COE to offer a USDOT-wide expert resource on the safety implications of highly automated systems, integrating expertise in artificial intelligence, computer science, data analytics, machine learning, sensors, and other technologies.


The HASS COE team is made up of leaders from government, academia, and industry who bring extensive, new kinds of expertise to USDOT resources. Our senior-level specialists bring insight and perspective, operating in a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary model across subjects and skillsets.

  • 17 specialists (as of July 2023)
  • 25+ years of experience
  • 78% bring expertise from outside USDOT
  • 89% has master's level education or higher


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Stephen Zoepf, Ph.D.
Acting Director

Dr. Stephen Zoepf is the Acting Director of the Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence (HASS COE) and Chief Analyst for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation. He holds a Ph.D., M.Sc. and B.Sc. from MIT and has two decades of experience in transportation and mobility. Stephen held previous roles leading Research at Lacuna Technologies, leading the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford, and as an engineer and product manager at BMW and Ford. He was an ENI Energy Initiative Fellow, a Martin Energy Fellow, and a recipient of the Barry McNutt award from the Transportation Research Board and the Infinite Mile award from MIT. His research has been covered in numerous popular press articles, initiated a Congressional probe, and has been lampooned in The Onion.

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Taylor Lochrane, Ph.D., P.E.
Deputy Director and Chief Scientist 

Dr. Taylor Lochrane is a respected leader and visionary in the fields of transportation safety, automation, and research. With extensive experience in both the federal and private sectors, he currently holds the esteemed positions of Deputy Director of Science and Technology and Chief Scientist for the USDOT Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence (HASS COE). Dr. Lochrane's expertise lies in strategic and technical leadership, business development, and staff engagement, consistently guiding diverse teams to remarkable achievements. Motivated by a steadfast commitment to advancing the safety of highly automated systems, he has successfully led groundbreaking initiatives, including the development of Cooperative Driving Automation during his tenure at the Federal Highway Administration. Dr. Lochrane's valuable insights as a respected speaker, combined with his strategic vision, technical proficiency, and collaborative mindset, play a vital role in shaping the future of transportation. Dr. Lochrane received a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, M.S. in Civil Engineering and Transportation Systems, and B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Central Florida.

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Éva Clinkscale
Deputy Director, Engineering and Innovation
​​Currently on detail to the Office of Innovation and Engagement

Éva Clinkscale is currently on detail to the Office of Innovation and Engagement. As Deputy Director of Engineering and Innovation, she builds the collaborations and coalitions central to offering HASS COE as the USDOT-wide expert resource on the safety implications of highly automated systems. Éva is skilled at leading highly technical organizations to manage change, implement new ideas, and prepare for the future using best practices in engineering, program, and organizational management. Her background includes serving as Director of FMCSA's Office of Analysis, Research and Technology; Deputy Director of NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation; Director with the Secretary of Defense's F-35 Joint Program Office; and Aeronautical Engineer as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force. Éva received an M.A. in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Oklahoma.

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Ashley Nylen, PMP
Acting Assistant Director of Program Development & Strategy

Ashley Nylen is the Acting Assistant Director of Program Development & Strategy at the USDOT Highly Automated Systems Safety Center of Excellence (HASS COE). Previously, she served as a Senior Strategist at HASS COE specializing in automated technology deployment, public policy, research, and operationalizing emerging technology data. She has served in the public sector for over 12 years, with eight of those years focused in the connected and automated technology space. Ashley previously served as the Assistant Director of Mobility Technology at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). She led CDOT’s strategy for connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies in Colorado and was the state’s subject matter expert on advanced vehicle technologies. She led CDOT’s connected vehicle program, deployed emerging technologies that improved safety and mobility, facilitated the interoperability of data and technology, and informed on future CAV policy recommendations. Prior to joining CDOT, Ashley led the Automated Driving Systems Research Division with the University of Iowa Driving Safety Research Institute (formerly known as the National Advanced Driving Simulator). She led the center’s research on advanced driver assistance systems and automated vehicles with a focus on human factors and driver understanding. Ashley received an M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning and a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Iowa.


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Denise Bakar
Strategic Communications & Partnerships Manager



Visiting Experts

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Christopher Nassif
Senior Scientist
On detail from FAA UAS Integration Office




Contact Us

Denise Bakar
Communications Manager

General Inquiries


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