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Anthony Foxx, the Great Connector

The outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation reflects on autonomous vehicles, economic justice, and a remarkable tenure.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. Larry Downing/Reuters

When Secretary Anthony Foxx took the reins at the U.S. Department of Transportation in June 2013, autonomous vehicles were just picking up pace. Google dominated software development with their rigged-Prius models. Traditional carmakers were unveiling futuristic prototypes left and right. A ride-sharing startup called Uber had just promised to pick up a 2,500-car AV fleet… from Google (my, how times have changed). Meanwhile, the feds had scarcely made a peep about whether driving these vehicles was legal.  

Foxx brought DOT to the table. Working closely with industry innovators, his agency devised the world’s first national AV safety policy—a comprehensive guidance that earned praise for its flexibility as technology keeps up its breakneck speed. Foxx, formerly the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, also looped cities into the conversation about 21st-century mobility: The $50 million Smart Cities Challenge fostered a national network of local leaders exchanging tactics to transport citizens through tech-ified, data-driven means. Through it all, Foxx’s administration has held a remarkably frank discussion on how the DOT cemented economic and racial disadvantage through historic infrastructure policies—and the agency has taken action to tear down those walls as the future presses on.