U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced the 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 this week 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. According to DOT, new technologies may not always fit into its existing regulatory structure, potentially resulting in a slower pace of transportation innovation.

The NETT Council was designed to address these challenges, and it's intended to ensure 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 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.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation held a series of interactive sessions and demonstrations at SXSW to showcase the department’s efforts to support innovation and market solutions to address transportation challenges across the country.