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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Celebrates the Volpe Center’s 50 Years of Advancing Transportation Innovation for the Public Good

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

In honor of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s 50th anniversary, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao released a special video message today to celebrate the Center’s sustained contributions to advancing transportation innovation for the public good.

On July 1, 1970, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) established the Transportation Systems Center (TSC) to advance the nation’s strategic transportation goals and priorities of the Secretary of Transportation. This followed a major transition—the Center originally served as NASA’s Electronics Research Center and was dedicated to supporting the Apollo program. Soon priorities shifted, however, and the nation needed us to redirect our mission to solving complex multimodal transportation challenges, including transportation safety, air traffic flow, and mass transit.

Before too long, a deep appreciation developed for the multimodal, multidisciplinary technical expertise and forward-looking perspective that had been assembled in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA. In 1990, the Center was named for John A. Volpe, U.S. DOT’s 2nd Secretary of Transportation and a former governor of Massachusetts.

50 Years of Progress and Innovation

Over the past five decades, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s extensive cross-modal partnerships have led to innovative solutions that have advanced the safety and efficiency of the national and global transportation systems.

Volpe Center experts have worked on automobile crash sensors, advanced urban transit technologies, grade-crossing protection, and crash energy management systems for passenger trains. The Center’s work has also evolved from helping respond to and analyze crashes, to helping anticipate them so they can be prevented in the first place.

In collaboration with FAA, Volpe experts developed the first air traffic flow management system. Thanks to Volpe’s contributions, the FAA is now able to predict national and local air traffic surges, gaps, and volume.

And, this spring, a Volpe team lent key support to the DOT and the U.S. Space Force in demonstrating technology to increase the resilience of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing services.

The Center also played a key role in developing and deploying easy-to-use, cost-effective vessel-tracking networks. These systems enhance maritime situational awareness in waterways around the world.

“…Volpe is also helping enable a better future during this historic period of transportation innovation. These innovations include drones and autonomous vehicles. These have the potential to increase safety, create new goods and services, and increase access to transportation for senior citizens and people with disabilities,” Secretary Chao said.

The Next 50 Years of Transportation – and Beyond

The Volpe Center will have an important role to play as we prepare for the future of transportation and consider emerging and future issues.

From the very early days, when the Center first convened industry leaders for an important dialogue on the future of the automobile to our recent programs that have explored new mobility, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics, Volpe has always helped DOT, other federal agencies, including DoD, and the broader transportation enterprise anticipate issues and navigate change.

View the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s 50th anniversary collection for more about the transportation innovations developed together with its partners.

  • Five Decades Publication – a special 50th anniversary retrospective that showcases the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s most innovative work from the past five decades and describes how the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, in collaboration with its sponsors, has changed the world of transportation;
  • Two special videos: one that brings the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s 50-year history to life and a second that spotlights our greatest asset: our top-notch, multidisciplinary, multimodal, and proactive workforce;
  • The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s 50-Year Timeline – a visual walk-through of events, project milestones, and points in time that shows the evolution of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s work since its establishment in 1970; and
  • Annual Accomplishments Report – a new publication that highlights some of the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s best work from the past year, notes areas of historical significance, and underscores its partnerships with U.S. DOT, DOD, NASA, Department of Interior, DHS, and others.

To learn more about the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s 50-year legacy, please contact U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director of Strategic Initiatives for Research and Innovation Ellen E. Bell.