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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 on Tuesday.

  • 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 travelers.

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, at best.

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) program.

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 driver distraction.

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 intentional ways.
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 as AutoPC.

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 systems.


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 manner possible.
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.

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