Arizona’s autonomous vehicle fatality is making Floridians question their own state laws

Not everywhere has laws regulating autonomous vehicles yet, and in many parts of the world, those laws are still pretty far off. However, for Floridians, driverless cars have been legal on their state’s roads since 2012. Since then, the work of legislators like Senator Jeff Brandes has made it so that vehicles can operate without any human presence inside.

Senator Brandes told Government Technology magazine that Florida is “one of the most forward-thinking states in the country as it relates to the future of mobility and transportation.”

Some are questioning what kinds of risks come hand-in-hand with this forward-thinking, especially after a woman in Tempe, Arizona was killed in mid-March after being struck by an Uber autonomous vehicle that was still in testing phases.

An attorney from Clearwater, Florida, Joshua Chilson, told Government Technology what he thinks about Florida’s perhaps premature laws. “You have this technology that is being unleashed on the world prior to it really being ready. It’s obviously not advanced to the point where it’s capable of responding to real-life scenarios, like the one that happened in Tempe.”

Why is Florida so ahead of the autonomous vehicle curve? Well, Brandes and other lawmakers in his state have worked to make Florida an attractive option for companies looking to manufacture and test driverless cars. And in that regard, they have been successful.

As Government Technology explains, “In February, a Starsky Robotics truck completed a 7-mile drive on a closed portion of Route 833… without a human in the vehicle. [And] Ford started testing self-driving cars in Miami-Dade County. Some are even delivering pizza.” Autonomous taxis are anticipated in the state later this year.

But President of the Florida Justice Association, Dale Swope, told the magazine that Floridians shouldn’t be put at risk for this industry. “Our school zones should not be their beta test laboratory,” Swope said. “That’s what test facilities are for.” The Florida Justice association is lobbying for the state to include accountability language in its legislation.

Florida has the chance to innovate and create jobs, but at the same time is potentially putting people at risk with an uncertain technology. It’s a tricky situation, and one that encompasses the struggle of autonomous driving technology everywhere.

Source: govtech.com – Florida’s AV Law Goes Too Far, Critics Say
Published: April 2, 2018