Despite lingering questions, mostly about liability, a House panel on Wednesday unanimously cleared a proposal that would encourage autonomous vehicles in Florida.
The legislation (HB 353), sponsored by Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur and Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer, aims to update sections of Florida’s motor vehicle laws that “require or presume” there’s a human behind the wheel.
Fischer told lawmakers in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee he is currently working with “industry partners and some of the consumer groups” to address concerns in the bill as it heads to its next committee.
For instance, back in 2012 there was a $5 million bond requirement for autonomous vehicle operators, but that has been removed from the current legislation.
Florida legislators are working on such legislation concurrently with Congress, who would trump the state’s efforts in many capacities.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in September that would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year, a cap that would rise to 100,000 vehicles annually over three years.
James W. Guarnieri from the Florida Justice Association cautioned the committee that they needed to make sure they included liability language in their bill.
“You can’t hold a piece of software accountable,” he said. “That has to be the manufacturer, or the designer, or the technology or the software who is controlling those vehicles.”
The lack of any liability provision in the current bill worried Miami Gardens Democrat Barbara Watson.
“I think it’s important that we get this right,” she said. “We just can’t give carte blanche—we have to make sure that we do this correctly.”
Five years ago, Florida was on the leading edge of states in implementing autonomous vehicles, but has fallen behind in recent years. A companion bill in the Senate (SB 712) is sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes.