US DOT forms council to support emerging transportation tech

It aims to help hyperloop and self-driving car projects cut through red tape faster.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has announced a council aimed at supporting transportation projects including hyperloops and self-driving cars. The Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council (NETT) hopes to make sure the Department of Transportation’s complex structure of various administrations doesn’t impede companies from deploying such tech.

“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,” Chao said in a statement.

The Department of Transportation has 11 administrations (including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Transit Administration), each with their own processes and regulations. The council, chaired by Deputy Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, will give companies a central access point to talk about their ideas and proposals, and NETT could help streamline permit, approval and funding processes. The first council meeting takes place this week, and it will focus on tunneling projects seeking approvals in a number of states.

“The announcement by Secretary Chao today at SXSW is an exciting development for us and the entire Hyperloop movement,” HyperloopTT CEO Dirk Ahlborn said. “We look forward to continuing our working and knowledge sharing relationship with the US DOT and the newly formed Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council.”

“Hyperloop is a new mode of transportation that is built for the 21st century,” Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Walder said. “We want to be the company that spearheads the next giant leap forward in transportation here in the United States but we know we can’t do it alone. We applaud the DOT for their support of this technology.”

Meanwhile, a number of hyperloop efforts are in motion at state and local level. A panel set up in Missouri today will explore ways of expediting a hyperloop connecting Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis. Elsewhere, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is conducting a feasibility study for a project that could transport people between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in under 30 minutes.

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