Transportation Secretary Chao at CES: Self-Driving Cars, Drones, and AI

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This morning. at CES, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios discussed the current state of innovation, and recent U.S. Department of Transportation initiatives to support the safe integration of new technologies into our country’s transportation systems.

As we have moved from ports to cars in terms of technology advancement, one thing is certain, says Chao:  “The need for more, better and safer transportation never stops.”

Chao points out that newer technology has provided major benefits for citizen.  “In 1972, for example, the mortality rate for car accidents was 4 times higher than today,” said Chao.”New cars are better and safer than cars cars from 18 years ago.”

“In the past few years, blind spot monitors and lane departure warnings make cars far safer,” says Chao. “Automated vehicles give the promise of increased safety as well,  decrease traffic, environment benefits, time and productivity gains from shorter trips”

With that in mind, Chao’s big announcement was the release of a U.S. Department of Transportation whitepaper, “Automated Vehicles 4.0,” the result of a coordinated effort between 38 different agencies and government organizations.

Implementing automated vehicles, however, “will require coordination – working together with industry partners, and government agencies to help develop standards,” says Chao.

Chao lays out 3 core government guidelines for new technology like automated vehicles:

  1.  protect users and communities
    • Prioritize safety;
    • Security, especially cybersecurity;
    • Public concerns about privacy and data security concerns.
  2. Promote efficient market, but not picking. winners and losers
  3. Modernize regulations


On the drone front, Chao says that drones are “useful for a variety of applications such as surveying, agriculture, search and rescue, delivery of packages and even passengers,” giving a nod to Ehang’s first passenger drone flight in the U.S., which took place this week.

“We are working toward the safe integration of drones into national airspace,” says Chao, pointing out that the government is currently testing drones in different environments through programs like the IPP. Additionally, the government is close to a framework for remote identification, with remote ID for any drones of 1/2 pound.

In addition to “enhanced safety and security,  Remote ID will be the foundation for more complex drone applications.”  Referring to the recent mysterious drone sightings over western states, Chao said “Recent drone sightings show the need for remote ID’s.”

Artificial Intelligence

Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, said that the new Automated Vehicles 4.0 shows how agencies and government stakeholders will work together.  When it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI) government agencies will work with private industry to “establish the American AI approach,” says Kratsios.

The agency has just published the tech principles that will guide AI – and Kratsios outlines the 4 pillars of the approach:

  • Research and development efforts coordination that bring the efforts together and leverage the over 1 billion that the U.S. spends on AI research
  • Workforce development
  • Regulatory approach
  • International engagement: “We do not always like some of the ways other countries are using AI,” says Kratsios.

“AI is changing and we want flexable guideline that work today and three years from now,” says Kratsios.  “We need AI to support American values of civil liberties and trust.”















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