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Rep. Sam Graves: Driving Toward Our Future Infrastructure Network

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Infrastructure drives every aspect of our economy, and technological advancements in this space have the potential to move things more safely and efficiently. While technology  is rapidly developing, our infrastructure is stuck in first gear and it is my vision to create a better way forward.

As a senior member of the Transportation Committee, I have spent the last several years traveling the country and learning about emerging transportation technology. I am encouraged by all the advancements the private sector has made that will improve people’s experience with our transportation network. Whether that is less time spent in traffic, greater options for rural and elderly citizens, or fewer traffic accidents, much of  the work they have done will make moving people and goods both safer and more efficient. One of the most exciting technologies on this front is self-driving vehicles. 

To the casual observer, self-driving vehicles are still a dream, but the reality is a lot of this technology is already in use today. Lane departure warning systems, automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control have increasingly become standard in both personal and commercial vehicles, helping protect drivers and reduce accidents. However, there are limits to how much we can achieve in this area if we are simply deploying individual vehicles with reactive, unconnected technology. We must look beyond individual cars and imagine a system where personal and commercial vehicles can connect to each other and to our infrastructure.

It is vital that the government maintains the infrastructure it is responsible for. In the short term, simple upgrades to how we mark lanes and standardize signs will go a long way in improving the performance of self-driving technology. However, we need a long-term and sustainable funding mechanism to meet today’s infrastructure needs while helping us plan for the future. An infrastructure package is an ideal opportunity to address this problem. Doing so would provide the long-term certainty and funding needed for policymakers, private companies and local partners to make technology a more integral part of our transportation system.

It’s important that Congress takes a full spectrum approach to encouraging innovation. The majority of tech companies are small businesses and they face the same challenges as other small businesses. They need access to a skilled workforce, relief from overzealous regulators, and above all want certainty so they can focus on doing what they do best. We want to set the table and a framework for technology to flourish. This is why a soft touch approach from regulators will help realize the full potential of American innovation especially in the transportation sector. 

There is a bipartisan desire to invest and modernize the way we move people, goods and ideas. And Congress has begun the process of writing an infrastructure bill that will achieve that goal by streamlining the federal permitting process, providing new tools for funding projects and making real investments in our infrastructure. While there is still much work to be done, now is the time to accelerate toward a 21st century infrastructure network. 

Sam Graves