Florida lawmakers look to the future to get roads ready for driverless cars
The FDOT won a Perpetual Pavement Award for a section of six-lane roadway on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County.

'This bill will bridge the gap in our infrastructure and prepare Florida for autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies.'

A House transportation subcommittee approved a bill that seeks to regulate the roads for the future of driverless cars.

“This bill will bridge the gap in our infrastructure and prepare Florida for autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tiffany Esposito.

One section of HB 425 requires the Florida Department of Transportation to establish updated rules for the Florida State Highway System.

“When we talk about autonomous vehicles on the road, we want it to be safe,” said Rep. Fiona McFarland, the Sarasota Republican who chairs the Transportation & Modals Subcommittee, during Wednesday’s hearing. 

“Florida roads are not graded or categorized according to their compatibility with autonomous vehicles,” according to the House staff analysis of the bill. “Autonomous vehicles are equipped with advanced sensors, such as radar, LIDAR, or cameras; and computing abilities to perceive surroundings and activate steering, braking, and acceleration actions without operator input.”

McFarland said the bill sets standards for road construction “whether that’s the brightness of the photoluminescent or the specific paint that we use in the road lines” for the autonomous vehicles’ sensors.

“The standards don’t exist across the country. With Rep. Esposito’s bill, we have an opportunity to put Florida on the map as the safest roads for autonomous vehicles to operate,” McFarland went on to say.

Other legislators voiced concerns about their fears of autonomous cars, or jokingly asked Esposito if she got comment from the futuristic cartoon family Jetsons, known for their self-flying cars, while putting together her bill.

“I’m from a different era. I’d like to see somebody behind the wheel of a car,” said Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, a Democrat from Gainesville. “Explain to me what it is you’re recommending about these autonomous vehicles. Are they going to be on the road with me — without a driver? What’s going on with the autonomous vehicles?”

Esposito, a Republican from Fort Myers who was elected in 2022 and was defending her first-ever bill, assured Hinson the bill doesn’t address autonomous vehicles themselves but only deals with the standards of the highway system and develops a grading system for the driverless vehicles. 

In the end, the House subcommittee approved the bill 17-0. 

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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