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Officials at Federal Agencies Review Priorities for 2018

NTSB: Making Transportation Safer by Conducting Objective, Precise and Independent Accident Investigations

Robert L. Sumwalt
National Transportation Safety Board

Transformational advances in transportation technology present both solutions and challenges for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and as we begin a new year we look forward to helping the transportation industry leverage technology to improve safety and to broadening our understanding of the latest tools and technologies that help us analyze transportation accidents.

The broader use of driver-assist technologies on our nation’s highways, and the push to the broad use of autonomous vehicles, has the potential to prevent accidents that claimed nearly 40,000 lives in 2016, a number that represents 95 percent of all transportation fatalities in that year. To truly capitalize on those technologies, there needs to be a systemic means of capturing the data collected through those systems, which is why the increased use of data recorders is an NTSB Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements issue area.

Our need to conduct comprehensive accident investigations amidst the myriad of technological advances in transportation compels our agency to focus on strengthening and increasing our expertise in emerging technologies so we may fully access data collected by those technologies, and apply that information in the determination of probable cause and the data-driven development of effective safety recommendations.

As we lean into the future and look to the horizon for the next challenges in transportation safety, we remain steadfast in our support of the 315 open safety recommendations associated with our Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, including the mandate for installation of Positive Train Control, the need for which was most recently reinforced with the tragic Amtrak Cascades 501 accident.

Although the means of transporting people and goods are transported are changing, the need for excellence in transportation accident investigations remains unchanged. Just as we have for the past 50 years, the NTSB will continue to make transportation safer by conducting objective, precise and independent accident investigations.

FTA: Safety, Innovation and Cutting Red Tape

Jane Williams

Deputy Administrator
Federal Transit Administration

Last year, under the leadership of President Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, FTA focused on improving safety, fostering innovation and cutting red tape. In 2018, we will continue our work to serve the transportation needs of Americans across the nation in both urban and rural settings.

Safety is our most important priority. Now that final rules are in place to implement FTA’s safety oversight authority, our focus in 2018 will be to continue to work with each and every state to establish a State Safety Oversight (SSO) program prior to the April 15, 2019, deadline. That’s a total of 30 states, and while three have already achieved certification, we’re committed to helping ensure that every SSO has the authority, resources and expertise necessary to provide safety oversight of their rail transit systems.

Innovation and its importance to the public transit industry will continue to grow as we look toward adapting new service models and technologies. FTA will work to foster innovation through the Mobility on Demand Sandbox initiative, including piloting the integration of technology with transit vehicles and infrastructure. The goal is always to prioritize safe, reliable and efficient transportation while offering riders more choices.

The integration of automated vehicles into the transportation network will also impact the industry. Although it is difficult to predict what changes will result from major shifts in technology, it’s likely that driver assistance technologies will help improve safety and efficiency. Fully-automated vehicles may hold the potential to change the way we operate BRT and demand-response services as well.

In December 2017, FTA released a draft of its five-year Strategic Transit Automation Research Plan (STAR) to help move the public transit industry forward in automation of bus services and operations. Early in 2018, under Chao’s leadership, DOT will solicit public comments on automated vehicle technology.

Lastly, FTA will continue to engage on ways to cut red tape, streamline guidance and reduce the regulatory burden that slows down project delivery. Having firsthand experience in project delivery, President Trump wants to ensure projects are started and finished more quickly to improve America’s infrastructure and better serve its communities.

Just in the last year, we adopted a risk-based approach that reduces the number of grants subject to quarterly reporting by 44 percent, allowing grants of $2 million or less to be reported once a year instead of four times a year. That will eliminate nearly 12,000 quarterly reports and save grantees 90,000 staff hours.
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