By B.N. Frank
Thanks to OneZero for publishing, “Florida Claims to be a Driverless Car Paradise. Critics Call It a Lawless Mess.” It’s a horrifying read for anyone living in Florida or anywhere else that AVs are being tested on public roads:
“Florida has quickly become the Wild Wild West for robot cars,” says Dale Swope, the former president of the trial lawyer advocacy group the Florida Justice Association. Swope, who has researched and written about the state’s AV legislation extensively, says, “There is nothing stopping a Chinese tech company from beta-testing its autonomous 18-wheelers at 7:30 a.m. in an elementary school zone.”
Florida isn’t the first state to try and entice AV companies with loose laws. Michigan and Texas permit AVs without drivers as well. Meanwhile, Arizona’s lack of regulation signals that the sate is open for just about anything.
— Jeff Brandes (@JeffreyBrandes) December 22, 2016
“What sets Florida apart is the number of laws,” says Bryant Walker Smith, a professor of law who studies AVs at the University of South Carolina. Walker Smith says that Florida has passed a series of low-profile pieces of legislation that have kept the state out of the headlines, while also signalling to manufacturers that Florida is open for business. Legislators continuously revisit these laws, chiseling them into more specific policy and offering explicit legal clarity on the state’s position regarding AVs. As a result, Walker Smith says, “Florida has managed to go from a state with no real [AV] activity to a state with a fair amount of activity.”
More from OneZero:
And while fully autonomous vehicles have yet to hit the road anywhere in the country, drivers in Florida have died after relying on Tesla’s Autopilot, a semi-autonomous driving mode that manages the vehicle’s speed and steering while on the highway. In May 2016, a man named Joshua Brown made headlines as the first person killed while using Tesla’s Autopilot. Brown’s Model S failed to see the 18-wheeler crossing the road in front of him in the small town of Williston, just outside Gainesville, and attempted to drive under the trailer truck at full speed. The collision ripped the car’s top off, according to a police report. Brown was pronounced dead at the scene.
Less than three years later, Jeremy Banner met a similar fate in west Delray Beach, when a semi truck pulled in front of his bright red Tesla Model 3. Just 10 seconds before the crash, which sheared off the vehicle’s roof, Banner had activated Autopilot, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board. His family is now suing Tesla under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.
AV incidents in the state have not typically been met with the hammer of the law. After Brown’s death, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration relied on misleading statistics provided by Tesla to determine there was no reason to recall Autopilot. Federal regulators did, however, step in to shut down a self-driving school bus pilot operated by French transportation company Transdev at Babcock Ranch, an unfledged community in Southwest Florida, in October 2018.
Regardless, AVs are still being promoted by proponents as being safer than human drivers. It’s beyond delusional. It’s also irresponsible.
Activist Post reports regularly about unsafe technology. For more information, visit our archives.
Image credit: Pixabay
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