Self-Driving Cars Won’t Require A Human Driver In Florida

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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Florida, a state infamous for wildly dangerous drivers, is throwing the car keys — virtually carte blanch — to driverless, autonomous vehicles on July 1. This after Governor Ron DeSantis signed bill ‘CS/HB 311: Autonomous Vehicles,’ which allows self-driving cars to be tested within the state without human backup drivers onboard.

  • Florida’s governor signed a bill that will allow autonomous cars testing in the state to operate without a human backup driver starting July 1.
  • Human occupants in the cars will be free to text, watch video, and generally enjoy the ride — they won’t be required to take control of the vehicle.
  • The bill’s only stipulation is that the self-driving vehicles be appropriately insured.

Last week, Florida’s governor signed a bill that would enable companies to test autonomous vehicles on the state’s public roads without a human backup driver behind the wheel. Furthermore, it will allow whatever human occupants might be riding in the car, to text, watch videos, and generally chillax while the vehicle does the driving. The only stipulation the bill spells out is that the car must carry insurance. Otherwise, it’s pretty much fair game.

Florida legislators are not shy in admitting that the move was inspired by their desire to draw innovators to the sunshine state.

“Signing this legislation paves the way for Florida to continue as a national leader in transportation innovation and technological advancement,” Governor DeSantis said.

Ford launched a self-driving vehicle service in Miami in February of this year. Likely, this bill, which removes barriers and clears the road for further autonomous vehicle development will attract not just other automakers but other brands working on automated driving tech as well.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs bill CS/HB 311: Autonomous Vehicles, which “removes unnecessary obstacles that hinder the development of autonomous vehicle technology.” | Photo: Governor’s Press Office

“Since 2011, Florida has been a national leader in self driving transportation policy,” said Senator Jeff Brandes. “With the signing of this legislation we reaffirm our bold commitment to lead the country as we transition to a shared, electric and driverless future.”

The new bill, which goes into effect on July 1, was signed at SunTrax, the only high-speed autonomous vehicle testing facility in the southeastern U.S.

Florida’s relaxing of human driver requirements doesn’t seem to solve a problem currently facing General Motors. That American car giant recently requested an exemption to federal vehicle safety regulations in the aims of launching a publicly accessible robotaxi business in San Francisco this year.

The crux of the problem, though, is that GM’s robotaxis don’t include a steering wheel or pedals. And it’s removing those features that caused road safety advocate groups to balk at GM’s request. As of yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, hasn’t made a ruling on GM’s request.

The mixed messages legislators and road safety advocates are sending must be incredibly frustrating for companies. Some states are A-OK with letting autonomous cars loose sans human driver. But at the same time, others take exemption to the idea that these cars be built without steering wheels.


About the Author

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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