Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has just enacted a law that will allow autonomous vehicles to circulate throughout the state without the need for anyone on board. The new measure, which will enters into force on July 1st, establishes a new legal framework for this type of driving.
As long as stand-alone cars meet the new insurance and safety requirements of the law, vehicle manufacturers and technology companies will be able to test their experimental cars on Florida’s highways. DeSantis wants to attract companies that wish to test their innovations in this field, since this law will make Florida “the most autonomous vehicle-friendly state in the country,” in his own words.
If the vehicle is driving itself with a human behind the wheel, the autonomous prototype must be able to issue visual and auditory alerts in the event of detecting faults in any of its central systems. If the problem occurs when the car is in completely autonomous operation, the vehicle must be able to stop safely (e.g., driving off the side of the road slowly and activating the emergency lights, without suddenly activating the brakes in the middle of traffic).
The new law also exempts people inside stand-alone vehicles, if there are any, from current laws that prohibit them from using wireless devices or viewing multimedia content while sitting behind the wheel on state highways.
DeSantis’ law clearly states that the autonomous driving system is the operator of the car as long as it is activated, even with people inside, which means that the company putting the vehicle out there is responsible in case of accidents. It will no longer be possible to blame a distracted driver if something happens.