The U.S. Department of Transportation is creating a board that will make recommendations on transportation innovation, with automation and workforce growth envisioned as core issues.
Plans for the Transforming Transportation Advisory Committee (TTAC) were detailed in a public notice on Tuesday. The TTAC charter will be effective for two years after the notice is published in the Federal Register, scheduled for Wednesday.
According to the notice, the committee will have up to 25 members appointed by the DOT secretary for up to two-year terms.
“Members shall include safety advocates, experts from academia/universities, representatives of organized labor, technical experts (e.g., automation, data, privacy, cybersecurity), and industry representatives. Individuals appointed solely for their expertise will be appointed as special government employees,” with no single interest group constituting a majority of the committee, the notice stated.
It adds that members of underrepresented groups will be included “to ensure that the recommendations of the committee have considered the needs of diverse groups served by the department.”
Information on requirements for potential members and the nomination process were detailed in a separate public notice.
The charter says the committee will advise and recommend to the DOT secretary “needs, objectives, plans, and approaches for multimodal transportation innovation,” with a focus on:
- Safe, secure, equitable, environmentally friendly and accessible deployments of emerging technologies.
- Ways to promote greater cross-modal integration of emerging technologies, in particular applications to deploy automation.
- Policies that encourage innovation to grow and support a safe and productive U.S. workforce, as well as foster economic competitiveness and job quality.
- Approaches that encourage the secure exchange of transformative transportation data, including technologies and infrastructure, across the public and private sectors that can guide DOT policy decisions.
- Ways the department can elevate cybersecurity solutions and protect privacy across transportation systems and infrastructure.
DOT was not immediately available to comment on how much focus will be on trucking and other freight transportation modes.
The department released a preliminary study in January 2021 assessing the effect automated driving technologies would have on the truck driver workforce. The report, created at the request of Congress, found there is “vast uncertainty” about how and when such automation may be adopted in long-haul trucking and the associated effects on professional drivers.
During a hearing held by the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee on Tuesday, Buttigieg was asked about restrictions on using federal dollars for automation at the ports.
“There’s a lot of difference of opinion, and difference in the research, on where automation in fact yields productivity increases and where it doesn’t, and there’s quite a bit of skepticism about how that could work in the U.S., Buttigieg said.
“That said, there are so many things that we can invest in and are investing in that unquestionably will benefit the efficiency and throughput at the ports,” including $52 million in port grants to extend on-dock rail at the Port of Long Beach, he added.
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