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Understanding Automated Vehicle Legislation In Florida


Florida is leading the way when it comes to driverless vehicle implementation on roads. It is currently the only state to allow a truly driverless car. Florida Statutes Section 316.85 allows for the operation of AVs on public roads without an “operator” physically in the vehicle. Florida had previously allowed AVs only for testing, but on April 4th, 2016, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that went into effect July 1st that removed that limitation, along with the requirement that the vehicle “operator” be present in the vehicle. The bills states:

1. AVs must still have a means to engage or disengage the autonomous technology and a mechanism to alert the operator of a technology failure.

2. If there is a failure, the operator must be able to take control, or if the operator “does not, or is not able to, take control of the autonomous vehicle, the vehicle must “be capable of bringing the vehicle to a complete stop.”

3. An AV can arguably be deployed so long as a remote operator is available to receive alerts about system failures, and onboard vehicle software is capable of safely bringing the vehicle to a stop if it or the operator is unable to effectively navigate the vehicle.

Florida State Senator and St. Petersburg Republican, Jeff Brandes, began leading the effort in 2012, pushing the legislation to encourage testing and studying of automated vehicles in Florida. His primary reason has been safety. Approximately 94% of the over 33,00 motor vehicle fatalities nationwide are due to human error. Driverless cars have the potential to significantly reduce this statistic and keep roads safer.

The Research Continues

In May 2016, a Tesla Model S crashed while on “autopilot,” killing the driver. Understandably, this presents significant concerns regarding the actual safety of driverless vehicles. Researchers at Florida State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning are currently looking at how safety and mobility can be improved in AVs. Tesla cars remind drivers to “Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.'”

As new information is attained and improvements in this technology are made, laws will likely change in shape and scope. The Florida Department of Transportation contains articles and updates on the Florida Automated Vehicles (FAV) program, and the National Conference of State Legislatures provides current state-by-state autonomous vehicle legislation.

Michael J. Babboni's wide-ranging legal career is based on the strong belief that everyone should be treated fairly and have access to effective legal help. Michael began putting his beliefs in action by helping the people of St. Petersburg Florida get what they are owed in civil trials fighting to protect families by making corporations pay, and honor their obligations.

Understanding Automated Vehicle Legislation In Florida

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh




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