The United States is rocketing into the future at a shockingly rapid pace. Autonomous vehicles, drones, artificial intelligence, and blockchain are only the beginning of the story, and Aii is dedicated to researching the shortfalls, promoting creative solutions, and encouraging the prudent use of technology across industry. Crypto features and cybersecurity will also become increasingly critical to the economy and national security in the next few years.

These areas overlap considerably with other policy spaces. As drones increase in number and application, the Federal Aviation Administration will become involved to set the rules for the airway. Corporations, innovators, and the government will influence each other, and cooperation is essential for public safety and efficiency.

Technological advancements also revive older and more traditional appliances and equipment. The Internet of Things is constantly expanding and awakening formerly analog technology. This double edged advancement greatly benefits consumers and efficiency, allowing remote control of and communication between homes, vehicles, and appliances, but opens the door to hacking, privacy invasion, and sabotage.

The future of innovation is by its very nature unknown. So best practices are essential to safeguard data. Communication among stakeholders and regulators is also critical.

The Challenge

Where innovation is concerned, the problem is anything and everything. We innovate to improve safety, efficiency, output, comfort, or just for the sake of trying something new. The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” simply does not apply to innovators. Virtually everything can be improved, reimagined, or replaced with a better, cheaper, faster, or more appealing alternative.

But in the midst of all this creative expansion is a dragnet slowing progress and taxing innovation. The regulatory framework generally favors known processes and proven technology. We have built our regulatory infrastructure to protect intellectual property and incentivize growth on the one hand, but to slow unruly innovation and limit the creative destruction that often comes with it.

Our regulatory system must learn to adapt and keep up with the dynamic nature of innovation. This does not mean leaving the technological space unattended, but allowing it the flexibility to try new things and bring consumers more options.

The Solution

Government and regulatory bodies are difficult to reshape. They are designed to mitigate dangers by slowing and providing rules for businesses and individuals. But regulation does not have to work this way. There are ways to ensure the safety outcomes we desire and unleash innovation and creativity.

One regulatory method is to focus on performance rather than prescription. Performance regulation sets standards for the outcome of technology rather than the process. This is different from prescriptive regulation that details the acceptable techniques and methods and tells people how they are allowed to build, operate, or implement technology.

It is the difference between performance saying “roadworthy cars must have a safe weight distribution and balance” and “roadworthy cars must have four wheels.” These are not real regulations, but illustrate the difference between the regulatory mindset: one focuses on the outcome (performance) and the other on the process (prescription). For innovators, performance regulation gives them virtually unlimited potential to try new ways of achieving the goal, while prescription limits the available avenues for creativity, even while it guarantees safe outcomes.

Featured Works Below

Policy Blog

White Papers

The Safety Impact of Technology and Crew Size: An analysis of accident data, incorporation of technology, and train crew staff levels on rail safety trends

The United States economy is one of the most dynamic in world history, powered by a vast and complex supply chain. At its heart, the freight rail network moves energy resources, raw materials, and finished goods across thousands of miles of infrastructure every day. The rail sector has also added considerably to and greatly benefited from technology, which has helped drive accident numbers to unprecedented low levels. Yet a persistent 35 percent of train accidents every year are caused by human error…


The Revenue Failure of the Highway Trust Fund: Why the Gas Tax is Obsolete

As conceived, the Highway Trust Fund was set to always have its outlays met or exceeded by revenue from the fuel tax and related fees, as actual driving directly correlated to the wear and tear impact. But as time goes on, the fuel used in vehicles is less aligned with the impact of driving…


Back On Track II: How Innovation and Automation Improve Rail Safety

The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) published a report in 2015 – “Back on Track: Bringing Rail Safety to the 21st Century” – documenting the rise in crude oil rail traffic and recommending government, the rail industry, shippers, first responders, and other stakeholders revisit rail safety standards and best practices. In the four years since publication, the leadership at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has turned over, crude-by-rail traffic has subsided, and rail industry safety performance has continued to move in a positive direction…


Building a Smarter Electric Grid: How Investing In Smarter Electricity Will Energize America

Access to affordable, reliable energy is the cornerstone of a strong economy and first-world living standards. The U.S. electric grid has served as the backbone of the U.S. economy, expanding and evolving along the way. As new energy technologies continue to emerge and growing amounts of distributed energy resources (“DER”) come online, the grid will serve as a critical enabler of these technologies…


Policy Briefs

China’s Infrastructure Ambitions and the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act (TIVSA)

Congress is currently preparing a reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), a critical piece of America’s national security framework. Contained within the larger NDAA are a number of more specific provisions and narrowly tailored policies. Among these stands one, which utilizes language drawn from a bill entitled the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act (“TIVSA” or “the Act”) introduced earlier in the year, and purports to protect domestic cities, infrastructure, markets, and national security…


Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that means just that, things connected to the Internet. Any device with an on-and-off switch that is connected to the Internet is a part of the IoT. Refrigerators, watches, headphones, coffeemakers, lamps, door locks, and much more, all connected by the Internet, communicating and sharing data in an attempt to make your life easier, more efficient, and more cost effective…


Policy Brief: 5G Primer

5G, that is, the fifth iterative advancement of mobile communication, is coming, and when it does, it will transform the way we interact with the Internet. Currently, 5G wireless broadband networks are being deployed in test markets around the country. When it finally makes it to the mainstream, it will wildly accelerate Internet speeds. It will also have the capacity to accommodate billions of more devices, and will help blast the tech world into the future…


Final Regulations Facilitating Commercial Drone Use Announced

Businesses, governments, first responders, and hobbyists have been quick to recognize the practical and recreational value of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), more commonly referred to as drones. The applications for Drone’s are endless – from stunning video footage to Amazon’s aspirations for near instantaneous delivery…


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