Austin, Texas — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced creation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council, an internal deliberative body at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tasked with identifying and resolving jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede the deployment of new technology, such as tunneling, hyperloop, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations. Secretary Chao made the announcement during her remarks at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas.

“New technologies increasingly straddle more than one mode of transportation, so I’ve signed an order creating a new internal Department council to better coordinate the review of innovation that have multi-modal applications,” said Secretary Chao.

USDOT consists of 11 operating administrations, each with its own traditional jurisdiction over certain environmental and regulatory approvals. New technologies may not always fit precisely into the Department’s existing regulatory structure, potentially resulting in a slower pace of transportation innovation. Inventors and investors approach USDOT to obtain necessary safety authorizations, permits, and funding and often face uncertainty about how to coordinate with the Department.

The NETT Council will address these challenges by ensuring that the traditional modal silos at DOT do not impede the deployment of new technology. Furthermore, it will give project sponsors a single point of access to discuss plans and proposals.

The NETT Council represents a major step forward for USDOT in reducing regulatory burdens and paving the way for emerging technologies in the transportation industry. The internal council will hold its organizing meeting this week and will first take on the topic of tunneling technologies seeking various approvals in several states.

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