Orlando, Fla.—July 1st, 2019 marked the important date on which many new Florida laws got enacted. Among them, one that allows self-driving vehicles with no humans on board to operate in our state.
It started as a legislative initiative to establish Florida as the pioneering state for autonomous vehicle development, which in turn becomes an important economic development project for our state— with the potential to bring private investment and the much needed high wage jobs. In California, dozens of companies have already been testing autonomous vehicles with backup drivers on public roads for several years and it is no secret they enjoy the majority of high-paying technology jobs in the country.
28 other states had passed laws related to autonomous vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. They range from authorizing testing to allowing the vehicles to operate without humans. The two other states besides Florida, that allow people-free vehicles are Michigan and Texas.
INSURANCE WISE —Florida’s new law will allow self-driving cars without humans on all of the state’s roads as long as the vehicles meet insurance and safety requirements outlined in the legislation. It requires that owners of autonomous vehicles have a minimum of $1 million in insurance coverage, regardless of whether the vehicles are for personal or commercial use. The law also requires that the owner immediately report crashes to law enforcement or that the vehicles have a system in place to report them.
As an interesting note, it is known that Uber, Google, and many world renowned automakers announced plans to create fleets of automated cars. Many of the plans call for consumers not to own but to subscribe to car services that will be summoned on demand, much like movies on Netflix and products ordered through Amazon Prime.
According to a 2017 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that human choices are linked to 94 percent of serious crashes, thus, making roads safer with the use of driverless vehicles. For people with disabilities or who are vision-impaired and cannot drive at night it provides an option to increase mobility in ways never contemplated before.
Another interesting fact is that autonomous vehicles will have to comply with federal safety standards and Florida’s traffic and motor vehicle laws, but they would a few cool exemptions from requirements and restrictions imposed to human drivers. It means that, with the automated driving system engaged, anyone in the driver’s seat could watch movies or TV from a dashboard-mounted video screen.
Although companies such as Lyft and Uber are rallying to eventually deploy fleets of the vehicles in Florida it doesn’t mean that these type of vehicles will appear on public streets around the state anytime soon. Self-driving vehicles without a human operator are largely still in the testing stage.
A few testing programs in our state include Ford’s Smart Mobility in Miami, Voyage in The Villages, Transdev in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Babcock Ranch. Also Starsky Robotics who recently conducted live tests with semi-trucks in the Florida Turnpike.