The Senate has approved Elaine Chao to run the Department of Transportation

Elaine Chao testifies before a Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing on her nomination to be transportation secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.,
Thomson Reuters

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to confirm Elaine Chao to run the U.S. Transportation Department, the agency that overseas aviation, vehicle, train, and pipeline safety.

Chao, a former U.S. Labor secretary and deputy transportation secretary, will face key decisions on how to regulate the growing use of drones and automakers’ plans to offer self-driving cars.

Chao will play a critical role in determining the fate of self-driving cars as automakers push for federal regulations that would dictate their use and release.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which includes companies like Ford and Google, released a statement in support of Chao on Tuesday.

“We congratulate Secretary Chao on today’s confirmation, and we look forward to working with her on delivering the promise of self-driving technology to make our neighborhoods safer and enhance mobility for the disabled and disadvantaged,” the statement read.

She will be a key player in the Trump administration’s plans to win approval for a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal over 10 years. The department has a $75 billion annual budget and around 60,000 employees and includes the Federal Aviation Administration, which handles air traffic control.

Chao has come out in support of companies like Uber and Lyft when it comes to labor regulations.

In a 2015 speech at the American Action Forum, Chao said today’s regulations haven’t caught up with today’s peer-to-peer economy enabled by apps and the internet. She gave Uber as an example, noting how drivers work with Uber because it allows them to manage another part-time and full-time gig at the same time.

“At a minimum, government policies must not stifle the innovation that has made this sector such an explosive driver of job growth and opportunity,” Chao said of the gig economy in her speech.

Meanwhile, outlets like Buzzfeed have questioned whether Uber drivers can make a livable wage. Uber must pay $20 million to the FTC to settle claims it misled drivers on how much they would make.

Uber and Lyft told Business Insider’s Biz Carson that they look forward to working with Chao.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)