- - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Progress in our society and economy typically comes about because of new technologies, or advances in utilizations of technology the assembly line or the internet, for example.

This is true for transportation as well. Think of the economic opportunities provided by the transcontinental railroad, when it supplanted the horse-drawn wagon as the means to connect east, west, and the vast interior of our nation; or the way the jet engine and commercial aviation began connecting every corner of the world in the 20th century; or the role the automobile plays in our day-to-day lives.

Technology will continue to play an essential role in how we move goods and people, how we build our infrastructure, and how we evolve as a nation as long as we let it. Federal policies should encourage private sector innovation without burdensome regulation, while protecting the public interest.

One example of the intersection between technology and transportation that has received a lot of media coverage is autonomous vehicle technology. Multiple companies and universities are working on driverless cars, and several of these vehicles have made their way to Washington, DC in recent months to demonstrate how much the technology has advanced. Not long ago, these cars seemed like science fiction. Now, they could be commercially available by the end of the decade.

Connected vehicle technology is expected to soon become a requirement for new cars. This technology allows vehicles to communicate, via wireless radio signals, driving information such as speed, lane departure, and environment information to other vehicles on the highway.

The potential safety benefits of these types of advancements are impossible to ignore. Reducing the human error factor, the cause of an estimated 9 out of every 10 crashes, could have a dramatic impact on the more than 33,000 annual traffic fatalities and the $871 billion in associated economic costs and societal harms of accidents.

Promoting innovation and laying the foundation for emerging technology is one of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s goals as it continues to develop the Nation’s next major surface transportation reauthorization bill. Congress needs to approve legislation that addresses current infrastructure needs, but also looks ahead to the future of our transportation system.

That’s why I continue to encourage input for future legislation from a wide variety of interests, including the tech community. . My message to transportation companies that are utilizing technology in new ways is simple: “Continue to bring us your ideas. The more you engage with lawmakers and show us what’s possible, the better we can understand the importance of ensuring that the government acts as a partner, not a hindrance, to allow innovation to flourish and drive our economy forward.”

We’re all in the transportation business it’s the foundation of our economy. If the transportation system works, it’s good for business. This is true not only if you run an airline, a railroad, or a bus company, but also if you’re a farmer, a manufacturer, or a software company. And the capacity to be innovative and utilize technology will remain an important component of an effective transportation system.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) is the chairman for the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the U.S. House of Representatives.