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License to drive: House passes autonomous vehicles legislation

The House version lines up with the Senate bill.

HB 311, a bill that would jumpstart Florida’s autonomous vehicle sector, rolled to passage in the House Wednesday with a unanimous vote.

The bill, sponsored by Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, includes several provisions to get autonomous vehicles, or AVs, rolling on Florida roadways — even if there isn’t a person in a passenger seat.

It defines many terms, including “automated driving systems” and “fully autonomous vehicles.”

The former describing the hardware and software backbone of AVs and the latter being any vehicle equipped with such a system that is able to function without anybody on board.

If an AV is involved in a crash, they would be exempt from certain laws so long as the car or a person contacts a law enforcement agency.

Additionally, Fischer’s bill would also open the door for an automated ride-sharing platform and allow The Florida Turnpike Enterprise to “fund, construct and operate test facilities” to study AV technology.

The Senate companion bill (SB 932), carried by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, has cleared its committees of reference and is on second reading there.

Via floor amendments Tuesday, the House version now lines up with the Senate legislation. That means: Expect the Senate to pass the House bill and send it to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Uber lauded the legislation.

“Uber applauds the passage of HB 311 and Representative Fischer’s leadership in helping Florida become a national leader in welcoming self-driving technology. In particular, we welcome the bill’s direction on the roles of state and local government and authorization for the deployment of automated vehicles on a ridesharing network. These provisions establish a clear pathway to bring the benefits of automation to our state,” asserted Stephanie Smith, senior policy manager for the rideshare giant.

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