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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Florida law now allows self-driving vehicles without human passengers on the road

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2019 at 2:24 PM

  • photo via Florida Governor's Press Office
Gov. Ron DeSantis made the final push to bring autonomous vehicle testing to Florida.

On Thursday morning, DeSantis signed HB 311 into law at the SunTrax autonomous vehicle testing facility in Auburndale. The bill removes or provides exemptions for a number of legal obstacles that stand in the way of testing self-driving technology.

Among these obstacles is, well, you.

In similar legislation, self-driving cars could only be tested if a human was sitting in the driver’s seat. With this bill, however, “autonomy” takes on a new meaning. Once the technology is up and running, self-driving cars could be operating semi-truck routes or rideshare services without a driver.

Among those in attendance at the signing was Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault and bill co-sponsors Reps. Jason Fischer and Senator Jeff Brandes.

“Signing this legislation paves the way for Florida to continue as a national leader in transportation innovation and technological advancement,” said Gov. DeSantis at the signing. “I would like to thank the bill sponsors, Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jason Fischer, for their work in making Florida the most autonomous vehicle-friendly state in the country.”

The new law will go into effect July 1.

Safety is a major concern when discussing self-driving vehicles, but Jason Fischer asserted that advancements in autonomous vehicle technology will actually make the roads safer. According to the bill itself, “In the event of an accident, the vehicle immediately notifies law enforcement with important information regarding location and type of crash.”

There is also hope that this technology will help with road congestion, a hot topic right now as Floridians debate a massive highway expansion.

The move to sign this bill comes as part of DeSantis’ continued interest in spearheading autonomous advancements in automotive technology in Florida. Back in January, the Palm Beach Post reported on DeSantis’ visit to the then-new SunTrax autonomous vehicle testing facility in Auburndale as part of his “infrastructure listening tour” of the state.

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