Transportation Secretary Chao: Expect More Self-Driving Cars on US Roads

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the U.S. could start to see more self-driving cars on its roads.

“There are so many different ways in which technology is making itself felt,” Chao said in an interview with the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “We have now self-driving cars. We have level-two self-driving cars. They can drive on the highway, follow the white lines on the highway, and there's really no need for any person to be seated and controlling any of the instruments. And now we're also seeing self-driving trains that are possible, self-driving planes.”

As technology becomes an important force in transportation, Chao said she is looking to leaders in the sector to close the gap between consumer acceptance and the “galloping rate of technology.”

“We will now see self-driving cars, and that's going to be a tremendous help to the elderly, who may not be mobile, to the disabled, so that they will have more independence, more freedom. But we also need to understand that there are some concerns about privacy, and other things that we need to kind of reconcile as well,” she said.

While safety is a top concern, in her opinion, self-driving cars can increase safety on the road.

“I think the public is concerned about the safety. Not knowing very much – there are different levels of technology, and they're being worked out. So at a level two, is probably safer than a level five or a level four self-driving car. So there's a lot of experimentation going on,” she said.

The classification system, adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from the Society of Automotive Engineers, is based on six descriptive levels of driving automation for on-road vehicles ranging from none to fully automated systems. A main difference is seen in level 2 where the human drives part of the time and level 3, where automation takes over. 

Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary Google are just some companies making big investments in the trend. Chao said she has met with private investors and executives to boost passenger acceptance.