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New law could bring more self-driving cars to Florida roads

If you have a newer car, you might already have experience with driver-assistance technology. Some vehicles on the market right now make it easier to merge and park via cameras. In an emergency your car might even steer away or stop entirely to prevent a crash.

At what point will your car do all the work for you? Some members of the Florida House of Representatives are trying to make that day come soon.

Changing the laws on driverless cars

Current Florida law requires that any self-driving car have a person sitting behind the wheel at all times. Even if the car is moving on its own, the person must be alert and ready to take over in the event of a malfunction.

A bill that has already been approved by various committees in the Florida House would remove the requirement to have a backup driver. Cars would be able drive themselves without anyone inside. If there were any passengers in the car, they wouldn’t have to pay attention to the road like they do now.

The ability to have cars take themselves places would allow ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft to send cars right to passengers without hiring drivers. Plus, everyone in the car would be able to text their friends or take a nap on a long drive instead of driving themselves. Sponsors of the bill hope that this freedom will bring tech companies to Florida to test and deploy their self-driving cars.

Are autonomous cars safe?

One legislator supports removing humans from the equation, because driver error is the cause of 94% of motor vehicle deaths. In a perfect world, driverless cars would prevent accidents. But so far, the results are not perfect.

Self-driving technology can still make mistakes. All the sensors might not register an object and cause an accident. A random computer glitch could cause the entire system to malfunction. Who would be liable if a driverless car injured you in an accident that most people would have avoided?

One driverless vehicle that Uber was testing in Arizona killed a pedestrian last year because the cameras didn’t see her in time. The victim’s family settled outside of court with Uber—but they are currently suing the state of Arizona for allowing driverless cars. Laws governing these situations are still developing around the country, so it is unclear whether the manufacturer, the government or the human operator is responsible for accidents.

Many critics of self-driving cars are nervous about testing the technology on public roads before it has improved more. Only time will tell if Florida allows for unmanned self-driving cars and whether future driving technology will bring an increase or decrease in accidents.

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