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Florida Gets Ready For The Day When Driverless Cars Rule The Road

A mockup of the ISEAUTO, designed at Tallinn Technical University in Estonia.
Tallinn Technical University
A mockup of the ISEAUTO, designed at Tallinn Technical University in Estonia. Florida Polytechnic University is partnering with the school on autonomous vehicle research.

A new state law aims to make Florida a leader in self-driving cars. It sets out rules for the day when the vehicles are widely available. It also allows testing of those cars without a backup driver.

"Most of the rules regulating drivers do take place at the state level. There's really not a national role for that," said the Brookings Institution’s Darrell West. While the federal government has issued safety standards for driverless cars, West says states are taking the lead on regulating how they operate. 

Nevada was the first to adopt regulations in 2011. Nearly two dozen states have followed suit. 

"Some of the states have insisted on having a human safety driver behind the wheel to override the technology in case something goes wrong. Florida has gone in the other direction of allowing autonomous vehicles without a safety driver in the car."

The state is embracing autonomous vehicles in other ways.

Florida Polytechnic University recently opened a test track in Polk County. The retirement community of The Villages will soon roll out a self-driving taxi service.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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