The United States is quickly establishing itself as the leader in autonomous car technology. Several states are currently introducing bills addressing autonomous vehicles. Last summer Nevada became the first state to allow the operation of autonomous vehicles on state highways as long as conditions to be spelled out by the Department for Transportation are met.
Currently two bills adressing autonomous cars are moving through Florida’s house (HB 1207) and senate (SB 1768). However these bills are not in the same league as the Nevada law (AB 511):
- While the Nevada law explicitly allows both the operation and testing of autonomous vehicles, the Florida bill only considers ‘the purpose of testing the technology‘.
- In Nevada, autonomous vehicles need not be under the control of a human whereas the Florida bill specifies that the ‘operation of the test vehicle must be continuously monitored in a manner that allows active control over the vehicle to be immediately assumed by a human operator‘.
- The Florida bill requires the Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicles to draft a report recommending legislative action related to autonomous vehicles by February 1, 2014. In contrast, the Nevada bill authorizes its Department of Transportation to ‘adopt regulations authorizing the operation of autonomous vehicles‘ and specifies the various issues which need to be addressed.
- The Florida bill only has one area where it is wider in scope than the Nevada law: It applies to all public roads whereas the Nevada bill is limited to state highways. Of course, as a human needs to be able to assume immediate control at all times in Florida, there is little difference to the status quo anyway. Google has already driven driverless cars thousands of miles under such terms on public roads in California.
In summary, little seems to be gained from the Florida bill. It does not contain reasons for autonomous car manufacturers to head to this state and will not help to establish Florida as a leader in this nascent industry.