My1sttoday: Secretary Buttigieg sets goals for electric, automated freight vehicles. Pete is planning to embark on ambitious priorities for electric and automated freight fleet vehicles as part of the Biden administration’s overall goals for combating climate change.
Sec. Buttigieg said at his recent confirmation hearing that American workers should be leading the way in producing autonomous vehicles, while stressing the need for public infrastructure to power electric vehicles with clean energy. In doing so, he fully embraced President Biden’s goal to have 500,000 electric charging stations across the country by 2030.
Buttigieg’s plans for automated and electric commercial vehicles come on the heels of a report from his predecessor, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who released a National Freight Strategic Plan in September that included supporting the development and adoption of automation and connectivity.
“There are significant technological and institutional barriers to the widespread adoption of highly automated trucks,” the plan said.
But proponents say that the costs to overcoming those barriers are outweighed by enhanced safety on the other end.
Freight shipments are expected to increase by 22.4 percent over the next 20 years, according to government estimates, and experts say the amount of human error in long-haul freight with automation will eventually lead to fewer injuries and deaths.
Todd Benoff, co-founder of Alston & Bird’s connected and autonomous vehicles team, noted that more than 37,000 people die on U.S. roads every year and 94 percent of those accidents are caused by human error.
“While there is a lot of debate around how much safer automated vehicles will be, there are some facts that suggest the improvement will be dramatic. Speed is a major factor in fatal accidents,” he said. “Driver distraction is another factor — one that becomes worse every year as people find more and more reasons to pay attention to their phones instead of the road.”
The Biden administration’s agenda includes replacing the government’s fleet with U.S.-made electric vehicles.
Transportation policy experts are optimistic that Buttigieg, 39, can help facilitate advancements in both electrification and automation.