While the advantages of new technologies like robocars and drones are clear, Chao said, “there are also concerns about how they will continue to develop. …. We need to do so in a way that will not dampen the basic creativity and innovation of our country.” Shorter: Don’t let regulations get in the way of tech development. Later, she cautioned against a “patchwork” of state regulations, another priority for those pushing the technology.
The hands-off approach is a tidy continuation of the Obama administration’s policies, says Katie Thomson, a former DOT official who is now a partner at the law firm Morrison and Foerster. “Chao said almost exactly what [current] Secretary [Anthony] Foxx has been saying, which is, ‘The federal government has a role, but we need to strike a balance to make sure there’s safety while allowing innovation to continue,’” she says.