New Florida Law Opens Doors for Autonomous Vehicles to Drive Without Humans

Imagine walking out your front door, newspaper and coffee in hand, ready to start the day. You open your car door, press the on button and proceed to work on today’s crossword, sipping your coffee, as you are chauffeured to work by your autonomous vehicle. Imagine the significance of this ride. Imagine the productivity you gain—perhaps an extra hour for work? Selfdriving vehicles will be able to operate in Florida without a human on board under a new bill signed this week by Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis says he wants companies that develop autonomous vehicles to move to Florida. The new law takes effect July 1. It will allow self-driving cars without humans on all roads as long as the vehicles meet insurance and safety requirements outlined in the new legislation. CS/HB 311 passed the House on April 24, 2019, as amended, and subsequently passed the Senate on May 1, 2019.

Current law allows self-driving vehicles if a person is in the car as backup. The new law alters the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law which states that “an autonomous vehicle is any vehicle equipped with autonomous technology. The term “autonomous technology” means technology installed on a motor vehicle that has the capability to drive the vehicle on which the technology is installed without the active control or monitoring by a human operator. The term excludes a motor vehicle enabled with active safety systems or driver assistance systems, including, without limitation, a system to provide electronic blind spot assistance, crash avoidance, emergency braking, parking assistance, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assistance, lane departure warning, or traffic jam and queuing assistant unless any such system alone or in combination with other systems enables the vehicle on which the technology is installed to drive without active control or monitoring by a human operator.”

Changes to the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law

The new law revises various provisions of law relating to autonomous vehicles and deems an automated driving system to be the operator of an autonomous vehicle while operating in autonomous mode, regardless of whether a person is physically present in the vehicle. The bill exempts fully autonomous vehicles operating with the automated driving system engaged from certain duties under chapter 316, F.S., such as the duty to give information and render aid, in the event of an accident. Provisions relating to unattended motor vehicles or property are also deemed inapplicable to such fully autonomous vehicles. The bill amends other provisions related to video displays, use of wireless communications devices, and other statutes to incorporate exemptions for autonomous vehicles.

The new law now authorizes the operation of autonomous vehicles equipped with autonomous technology on Florida roads by any person holding a valid driver’s license. The new law removes the requirement that a person possess a valid driver license to operate a fully autonomous vehicle and provides that the automated driving system, rather than a person, is deemed the operator of an autonomous vehicle when operating with the automated driving system engaged. Cars that have full autonomous capabilities are allowed to operate without a human operator in the vehicle when the system is engaged. However, the bill will still require all autonomous vehicles to comply with applicable federal laws and regulations which includes the requirement that the vehicle have a system to safely alert the operator if an autonomous technology failure is detected while the autonomous technology is engaged that allows the operator to take control of the autonomous vehicle; or (2) if the operator does not, or is not able to, take control of the autonomous vehicle, be capable of bringing the vehicle to a complete stop, have a means, inside the vehicle, to visually indicate when the vehicle is operating in autonomous mode; and be capable of being operated in compliance with the applicable Florida traffic and motor vehicle laws.

The bill also establishes insurance requirements for fully autonomous vehicles for personal use. The bill prohibits local governments from imposing a tax, fee, or other requirement on automated driving systems or autonomous vehicles and clarifies that this prohibition does not exempt autonomous vehicles from a tax or fee applied to non-autonomous vehicles. Finally, the bill authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to fund, construct, and operate facilities for the advancement of autonomous and connected innovative transportation technologies and enter into agreements with private entities to provide services and concessions to benefit the traveling public.

How a Lawyer Can Help in the Event of a Self-Driving Autonomous Car Accident

The Law Offices of Suarez & Montero Car Accident Attorneys is a personal injury law firm with locations in Miami and Broward. In this area, the law is constantly changing; thus, it is crucial to pick a lawyer who is up to speed with these changes and can guide you through the claims process with ease. There is no substitute for consulting an experienced car accident attorney after being involved in a crash. If you have been involved in an accident involving an autonomous vehicle, we can help you navigate through the confusing ins and outs of an accident involving a driverless car. As a victim of an autonomous self-driving vehicle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Let us review your case and discuss your legal options. Our attorneys are ready to provide proven legal representation and stand ready to protect your rights. We are available 24/7 to give you a free, no risk case consultation!

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Jaime Suarez

An experienced legal personal injury defense professional in Miami, who is dedicated to helping accident victims with personal injury cases involving automobile accidents, brain and spinal cord injuries, slip and fall accidents, prescription errors, wrongful death, and accidents at work.