The 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, traveled to Louisville on Wednesday to speak at Vincenzo’s about the future of transportation for the Louisville Forum luncheon.
Chao’s visit comes after thousands of holiday flight delays, cancellations, and a full FAA system failure. It’s why it’s no surprise it was one of the first topics she addressed and offered solutions for.
“It’s increasingly clear that the structure of the FAA is unsuited to the many demands on this agency. It is both a safety regulator and provider of air traffic control services,” said Chao. “There was a serious proposal from Congress in the previous administration to separate out the organization from the rest of the FAA.”
While reflecting on recent challenges, Chao also touted how the U.S. is moving transportation forward with the help of emerging technology.
“We’re going to see supersonic flights, commercial space, tourism, drones, flying taxis, and autonomous vehicles,” she said.
The former secretary says these changes are already altering the way we work, live, and travel, but also how goods are transported.
“It’s going to transform the safety and efficiency of freight trucking; Currently, a 600-mile route takes a human driver about 22 hours to complete; an autonomous vehicle can do the same trip in only about 12 hours,” she said.
While optimistic about the future of transportation, Chao made sure to commend Kentucky for the state’s work in this transformation. She noted the construction of two electric vehicle battery plants and improvements to the Brent Spence Bridge, for which her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell, played a key role to secure funding.
During her career, Chao was appointed to two presidential cabinet positions. She most recently served under the Trump administration.