Remarks as Delivered by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao For U.S. Japan Council 8th Annual Conference

November 13, 2017

Thank you, Jill [Nishi, Chief of Staff for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation], for that very nice introduction.  What a wonderful opportunity it is for me to see all of you.  I am so delighted to be here; I am here because of your president, Irene Hirano, a dear, dear friend.


I’m so pleased to acknowledge Minister Yoshino, the Japanese Minister of Disaster Reconstruction for the Tohoku region.  In the United States, we have certainly seen our share of devastation in the last two months and have received wise counsel on restoration and recovery.  You are also going to hear from a wonderful speaker– Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.  And, of course, Japanese Ambassador Sasae is here. He is doing a wonderful job—let’s give him a round of applause!   We also have, Ambassador Roos, Ambassador Schieffer, and of course Japan’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, Masaharu Kohno, as well.   So, you have quite a stellar array of dignitaries, which emphasizes the importance of this council and its mission.


Today’s event is a tribute to the strong, enduring ties between Japan and the United States.  It honors the vision of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye—one of the organization’s co-founders.  Senator  Inouye was one of the very first congressional leaders I met when I first came to Washington over 35 years ago. I will always remember how kind he was to a newcomer, and he was obviously concerned about helping other Asian Americans come to Washington.   I have always appreciated his many kindnesses   Subsequently of course, Sen. Inouye, Irene and my husband and I have become very good friends.  We are still seeing the impact and the legacy of Sen. Inouye today.


The Council’s mission—to foster engagement and understanding between America and the Asia-Pacific region—is more important than ever. The new U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue is strengthening economic cooperation between our two countries.  And let me also congratulate Prime Minister Abe for inviting the First Daughter Ivanka Trump to address the issue of women’s entrepreneurship at the World Assembly for Women that just concluded in Tokyo.  As a successful entrepreneur in her own right, the First Daughter is passionate about helping women access opportunities and achieve their dreams.  And as we all have seen on television, the President and First Lady enjoyed a very successful visit to Japan just a few days ago.


This afternoon, allow me to share a few thoughts about the innovation economy– which Prime Minister Abe is also been very concerned about– and what the Department of Transportation is doing to prepare our country’s transportation infrastructure for the future.


My three priorities as Secretary of Transportation are the following:

Number one is safety;

Number two is rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; and,

Number three is preparing for the future by preserving innovation and creativity, which is such a hallmark of American society.


This last point is especially important because transportation is on the verge of one of the most transformational eras in history.  I’m referring to new, disruptive technologies that have the potential to change the way we travel and connect with one another. These disruptors include automated—or self-driving—vehicles; drones; new systems to guide and provide surface transportation; hyperloop; commercial space ventures, and many more.   In the not-too-distant future, vehicles will talk to one another, and communicate with the infrastructure around them.  So, one of the biggest challenges facing our transportation infrastructure is to integrate these technologies, while addressing legitimate concerns about safety, security and privacy.


The U.S. Department of Transportation has a role to play in building and shaping this future by developing a regulatory framework that encourages innovation, and the safe testing and deployment of new technologies.


That’s why on September 12th, I announced A Vision for Safety 2.0.  It is a framework to promote improvements in transportation safety, mobility, and access through automated driving systems (ADS).  Change is happening so fast that the Department is already at work on the next version of this automated vehicle guidance!

And on November 2nd, I announced The Drone Integration Pilot Program. It will accelerate the safe integration of drones into our airspace by creating new partnerships between local governments, the FAA, and private drone operators. These partnerships will allow local communities to experiment with new drone applications including package delivery, emergency inspections, and many more applications, on terms that work for them and in ways that support a unified and safe airspace.  We have seen from the recent hurricanes how important drones can be in inspecting the damage and assessing the potential road ahead in terms of repairs and reconstruction.

These are just two examples of the disruptive technologies the Department is addressing.  There are more to come.  Creativity and innovation are part of the creation and dissemination of all this new technology.  So our job at the Department is to prepare the way for the integration of new emerging technologies, so they can be safely deployed and usher in a new era of service, access and mobility.


So, I am pleased to be here to say a few words about what the Department is doing in terms of preparing the future.  Since Prime Minister Abe is also emphasizing innovation and creativity, I thought an update on what the Department is doing would be interesting.

And thank you for everything you are doing to build bridges of understanding and cooperation between East and West.

Thanks for having me.

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