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Transportation Secretary Chao Highlights Innovation At Uber Elevate Summit

Says Regulatory Strategy Avoids Overly Prescriptive Rules In Favor Of A Performance-Based Approach

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao told attendees at the Uber Elevate Summit on Monday that the Department’s regulatory strategy avoids overly prescriptive rules in favor of a performance-based approach.

“It is tech-neutral, not command and control. We are not in the business of picking winners and losers,” said Secretary Chao. “That decision is left to the public. So, it’s important for developers to engage the public early and often to address legitimate concerns about safety, security, privacy and noise.”

On March 12, 2019, the Department announced the formation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technologies Council, or NETT Council. This council will coordinate internal review of new technologies that have implications across multiple DOT agencies. The NETT Council is empowered to establish working groups for each new cross-modal project. “Internally, it will address and resolve matters of jurisdiction and policy,” said Secretary Chao. “Externally, it will ensure that project sponsors have a single point of access to discuss plans and proposals. Going forward, there will be one place – a one-stop shop – for innovators and stakeholders to work with the USDOT to address new technologies that touch multiple transportation systems.”

In addition, two recently announced proposed rules would also impact aero-taxi development. The proposed rule for Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems over People would allow routine drone flights over people and at night under certain conditions, without obtaining a waiver or exemption. “However, this will only be allowed if the operator has received appropriate safety training, completed approved testing, and the drone is equipped with anti-collision lighting and meets other physical and technical criteria,” said Secretary Chao.

Since aero-taxis will likely operate at night and over people, the FAA will need to determine which existing regulations might apply and what new regulations may be needed to fill in gaps.

Another initiative of note is the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for the Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “This focuses on the security issues that drones, in the hands of bad actors, could pose and how to ameliorate them,” said Secretary Chao.

Secretary Chao explained on Monday that perhaps the most critical next step is tackling the issue of remote identification. “Think of remote identification as an electronic license plate,” said Secretary Chao. “Knowing who’s out there and where they are going will be critical not just in terms of safety and security, but also in terms of public acceptance.”

The Department is moving forward on this critical effort. “You can expect a proposed rule on remote identification later this year: it’s a complicated issue and it’s important to get it right,” said Secretary Chao. “Remote identification is essential to enabling routine drone and aero-taxi operations.”

Secretary Chao challenged developers on Monday to step up and help educate the public about the benefits of these new technologies. “Without public acceptance, these technologies will never realize their full potential,” said Secretary Chao.

(Source: DOT news release. Image from YouTube video provided)



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