Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Remarks as prepared for delivery
International Automotive Roundtable
January 30, 2003, San Francisco, California
I'm honored to represent President Bush at the Roundtable.
If the President were able to be here, he would probably share his
thoughts on the four main themes from his State of the Union speech
- Grow the economy and create jobs - early reports show strong support
for his economic plan;
- Strengthen and improve health care;
- Promote energy independence while improving the environment; and,
- Encourage acts of compassion.
These are steps our nation needs to take -- and I hope Congress acts
quickly on the President's recommendations. I deeply respect the President's
leadership in squarely confronting our challenges with actions equal
to the demands we face.
The initiative that probably caught your attention is the "Freedom
Fuel" proposal. President Bush wants $1.2 billion in research funding
so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered
automobiles. It would make our air significantly cleaner and our country
much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
This is a good role for government - to support research (risky research)
that can lead to a major breakthrough and to new commercial products.
I know first-hand that the Administration and DOT Secretary Norman
Mineta are committed to the reauthorization process for TEA-21, the
major transportation act that expires in September, and to ongoing transportation
initiatives which can relieve congestion and improve safety for all
A great example of this commitment (and vision) is the new Transportation
Security Administration. U.S. DOT and the new TSA had 36 mandates from
Congress and a 37th from Secretary Mineta. The Secretary's mandate was,
"meet all of the Congressional mandates." And it was done.
In a partnership of thousands of screeners, airports, airlines, and
contract partners, notably Boeing-Siemens and Lockheed-Martin, every
deadline and mandate for air security has been met.
Like TSA, FHWA wants to carry through our part of the President and
Secretary Mineta's program.
Our concern is the infrastructure -- primarily roads and bridges --
and the mobility and safety of travelers who use them. At the federal
level, we work closest with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). At the state level,
we support the work of state DOTs.
I want to talk about how we are already working closely with your industry
on safety and congestion issues -- and share some ideas about what we
need to do together to keep America safe and moving.
A strong public-private partnership is crucial.
People have complained about traffic congestion throughout history.
In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar barred delivery carts during daylight
hours to ease traffic jams.
In the U.S., the most recent survey of the Texas Transportation Institute
(they do good research) estimates that in 2000, the 75 largest metro
areas experienced 3.6 billion vehicle-hours of delay, resulting in 5.7
billion gallons in wasted fuel and $67.5 billion in lost productivity.
Incidentally, San Francisco/Oakland ranks number two in annual hours
of delay, behind only Los Angeles.
Safety concerns have also always been with us -- they just found a
new level with the invention of automobiles.
Stagecoaches crashed regularly, especially in view of the terrible
roads and (often) drunken drivers. Steamships exploded on a fairly regular
basis. Trains derailed. The lifespan of the early aviators was dubious,
The first auto-related road death, according to Max G. Lay in his 1992
book "Ways of the World" was in 1896 in London. A woman pedestrian
named Bridget Driscoll was killed by a car driven by Arthur Edsall.
Edsall claimed to have been traveling less than five miles an hour,
to have shouted, to no avail, "Stand back!" and to have rung
his bell before striking the unfortunate Driscoll. At the inquest, the
coroner expressed the wish that such an event would never be repeated.
Regrettably, an average of 115 people lose their lives each day on
America's roads. More than 42,000 Americans died in highway-related
crashes in 2001. Imagine if there were a new disease that killed more
than 40,000 people a year. Protesters would be marching in the streets.
We need a greater emphasis on safety.
Regardless of reauthorization, regardless of developments in the soon-to-come
Administration budget, we have to make the best use of every tool, resource
and idea to keep America moving and keep America safe.
An example of a smart investment we plan to continue to emphasize in
the proposed budget is the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
Cars and driving have certainly gotten more complicated. When I learned
to drive on a stick shift, I told my Dad, "You want me to do all
this and drive the car?"
Now we have all kinds of technology to help with safety and congestion.
Over the past 11 years, and the last two reauthorization cycles, we
have invested over $2 billion in basic and applied ITS research, development,
testing, and demonstrations, as well as other activities designed to
accelerate the adoption and commercialization of ITS applications.
This investment is paying off in saved lives and reduced congestion.
And yet, the human factor remains and that's where ITS and a key ITS
program, the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative, direct their efforts.
Driver error remains the leading cause of crashes, cited in more than
90 percent of police crash reports. The mission of the Intelligent Vehicle
Initiative government-industry partnership is to prevent crashes and
to reduce -- through driver-assistance technologies -- the severity
of those that do occur. IVI also tests newly developed driver assistance
products, such as navigational aids, for their safety impacts, particularly
Up to now, the planning and development of the vehicle and the planning
and development of the infrastructure were only incidentally connected.
However, because of the incredible advances in technology, we must change
that thinking. We have already seen it in air travel, where the communication
between the runway and the airplane has advanced to the point of almost
eliminating the need for human intervention in routine situations.
The same thing is happening on land. Technology exists which makes
it possible for us to achieve advances in capacity, efficiency, reliability
and again - above all - safety. Infrastructure and vehicles can be more
forgiving of driver error.
It is already being demonstrated in vehicles that know where they are
in relation to other vehicles and the roadway itself -- in trucks that
can communicate with weigh stations without stopping -- in emergency
communication systems and navigation systems -- and much more.
But -- if we are to realize the full potential of these capabilities
-- attain the full benefit -- and sustain their development and commercialization,
the public and private sectors have to work together in new and more
To more clearly reflect its cross-cutting application to various modes
and its growing importance within the Department, responsibility for
ITS - in our Joint Program Office - has been placed in a direct line
to the Deputy Secretary. It will still operate out of Federal Highways
under the leadership of a new director. The director will coordinate
ITS programs and will have dual reporting responsibility to me and to
the Deputy Secretary.
And, we are creating a formal ITS Federal Advisory Committee. Over
the last 10 years ITS America has filled this federal advisory role,
and as such, has played an important part in the successes that have
been achieved. The restructured ITS Advisory Committee will provide
guidance to the Department as we consider the issues, opportunities
and policies that will shape future programs.
I have asked El Tinklenberg -- the former Commissioner of Transportation
for the State of Minnesota -- to help shepherd the development of the
committee and to assure that both the make-up of the committee and its
agenda reflect the high expectations we have for it.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this Advisory Committee function.
We need senior level people to get involved. If you're interested, please
call my office in Washington.
I have talked about intelligent vehicles and the use of technology
to assist drivers.
How do I know the effort is paying off? Many cars are now equipped
with at least one intelligent technology. They are on the road. Advertising
is touting its benefits.
In the current issue of the international magazine, The Economist,
a Lexus ad describes a high-tech safety feature as a prime reason for
buying. "You're cruising quite comfortably down a scenic highway
in your Lexus LS when you near a vehicle driving ahead of you. The available
Dynamic Laser Cruise Control sends out a signal from your front bumper
to detect the car traveling ahead. And then helps to automatically reduce
your speed to maintain a set following distance. You continue to drive
with your enjoyment of the day uninterrupted."
DaimlerChrysler shows an approaching police car and the headline: "Your
car will warn you before they do." It goes on to say the company
is developing intelligent technologies that enables CARS to recognize
stop signs, speed limits, no passing warnings and other signs."
Commercialization is coming for safety features that were science fiction
a few years ago.
And that's not all.
DOT has partnered with General Motors and Delco Electronics to test
a rear-end collision avoidance system on passenger cars to determine
the effectiveness of these systems on real roads with real drivers.
General Motors has stated that the government's participation will enable
them to make this life saving system available to the American public
up to five years earlier than planned.
DOT has partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research
Institute, Visteon and Assistware to test a road departure crash warning
system on passenger cars. This project will evaluate the effectiveness
of a system that warns drivers if they are going to have an imminent
run off the road collision or are approaching a curve too fast.
DOT has partnered with the State DOTs from California, Virginia and
Minnesota to develop systems that warn drivers of imminent collisions
at intersections. These systems will be effective for signalized and
stop sign intersections using vehicle-based systems that communicate
with roadway-based sensors.
DOT has partnered with a consortium of automobile manufacturers (DaimlerChrysler,
Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota) to develop a tool for measuring
the workload associated with new in-vehicle information systems, such
DOT has partnered with heavy vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators
to evaluate the effectiveness of systems to help drivers avoid crashes.
The systems in testing include rear-end crash warning systems, lane
departure warning systems, advanced brake systems, and rollover warning
I've given you a sketch of some cooperative programs that can improve
safety and relieve congestion. Government can't do it alone, neither
can industry. We need each other, and we need the state and local government
to buy-in too.
Stewardship is the overarching responsibility that we have to the public.
FHWA, in partnership with state DOTs, will ensure that the resources
entrusted to us will be well managed and wisely used. It is, after all,
the public's money we are entrusted with.
Congress and the public rightfully hold us accountable for ensuring
that federal highway funds are used in the most efficient and effective
With stewardship, with the introduction of the Administration's transportation
bill in the next few weeks, comes our responsibility to raise the bar
on the performance of our highway system.
I urge you to think beyond the day-to-day, work on ways your industry
and your company can reduce congestion and save lives. We are on the
same team. We have to do better because the country is counting on us.
We are America's road to freedom. That's why FHWA and all the industries
you represent are so important.
America is counting on us.