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Lawmakers: Cars With No Drivers Could Mean Safer Roads

Mar 8, 2017
Originally published on March 7, 2017 6:15 pm

Florida lawmakers say the future is right around the corner and now is the time to get prepared. This legislative session lawmakers are talking autonomous vehicles and personal delivery devices.

Imagine hailing a cab, jumping in and taking off to your destination all without a driver controlling the car. Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) says that future is not too far off so long as government makes room for its development.

“ I want to remind you that Orville and Wilber would never have gotten off the ground if the FAA had been around. So we want to be at the forefront,” Brodeur says.

Brodeur is behind a bill that puts a framework in place for growing use of autonomous vehicles. It clarifies that in the case of an accident or traffic violation the technology, not the human in the car, would be considered the operator of the vehicle.  And Brodeur says the technology could improve safety.

“They will make the roads substantially safer by decreasing the risky human factor behaviors like speeding, wreck less or aggressive driving, and slow reaction time. We know that 90 of all automobile accidents are caused by human error. This will reduce that,” Newsome says. 

And Rich Newsome, a product liability lawyer agrees. But he says that’s not the case yet.

“They’re still learning. None of them have the ability to drive without a human driver. Heck, I think Tesla is furthest along of anyone and Musk says, you drivers, you’ve got to hold the wheel. A light will flash if you go down the road and you don’t have your hands on the wheel after a few minutes. It’s kind of like my son Grant when he was 14 and 15 learning to drive. The danger, with the way this bill is drafted, is you’re essentially giving a car that doesn’t know how to drive yet a driver’s license," Newsome says.

Newsome says the state has the opportunity to create its own safety standards—even a test similar to the test a person must take in order to obtain a drivers license.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are also considering a bill that creates a framework of rules for so called “personal delivery devices.” They’re small, low speed robots that travel on the sidewalk and use sensors and cameras for navigation. Rep. Jayer Williamson (R-Pace) is sponsoring the bill.

It basically clarifies that a personal delivery device is not a vehicle or a motor vehicle,” Williamson says.

The measure clarifies the devices can use the sidewalk, but must obey traffic rules and pedestrian signals. The bill also requires that an operator be in control of the device. Both measures passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Tuesday.

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