USDOT releases policy document on emerging transportation technologies

July 24, 2020
The policy document, “Pathways to the Future of Transportation,” lays out a route for emerging tech’s regulation, deployment and federal funding eligibility.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council released a policy document, “Pathways to the Future of Transportation,” intended to serve as a roadmap for innovators of new cross modal technologies to engage with the department.  

USDOT says the policy document lays out a process for innovators and stakeholders to approach the department with their plans and proposals for emerging technologies.

“Pathways to the Future of Transportation guidance on new, cross-modal technologies will help address legitimate public concerns about safety, security and privacy without hampering innovation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

One of the more rapidly developing emerging technologies is hyperloop and representatives from Virgin Hyperloop called the policy document “a clear regulatory framework for hyperloop in the United States” and supports the intention of the U.S. “to be the leader in the industry.”

“Hyperloop offers a truly unique opportunity to lead the world in 21st century transportation,” said Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. “It takes strong vision to break away from the inertia of the status quo and embrace these opportunities. The announcement today will help lay the groundwork for the United States to take that leadership.”

The policy document not only lays out a pathway for hyperloop regulation and deployment, but also establishes eligibility for federal funds to be used on hyperloop projects.

“We have determined that these hyperloop projects are just as eligible for grant as any maglev or magnetic levitation project,” said Finch Fulton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy during the live-streamed event. “This also means that they would be eligible for some of the Department’s loan and lending programs.”

During the same live-streamed event, Sec. Chao explained the guidance bridges a gap between innovator and regulator. The NETT Council was established in March 2019 to identify and resolve jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede the deployment of new technologies.

USDOT says “Pathways to the Future of Transportation” intends to help private sector innovators understand the purpose, structure and function of the NETT Council; lay out the principles guiding the department’s policies and posture toward transformative technologies; and deliver a high-level overview of the federal framework for supporting non-traditional and emerging technologies.

Virgin Hyperloop says it has been working closely with the NETT Council since its creation to advance its technology and ensure quick and safe deployment of hyperloop.

“Secretary Chao and the NETT Council are working at an unprecedented speed to ensure that the United States is at the forefront of hyperloop development,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. “It’s clear that the USDOT shares our vision for infrastructure development as a way for the country to not just rebuild, but evolve as we emerge from this crisis.”

USDOT will publish a Request for Comment on Pathways to the Future of Transportation, which will allow the public to comment and provide feedback on the document.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.