By Alex Lauer / June 19, 2019

Florida Green-Lights Autonomous Cars Without Human Operators Starting in July

If there are drivers, they will be allowed to text and watch videos

Florida Law Allows Autonomous Cars on Public Roads in July
Starting July 1st, fully autonomous vehicles will be allowed on public roads in Florida.
Roland Denes/Unsplash

For all the early promise of autonomous vehicles, the technology is starting to seem like the new flying car, creeping further away from reality every day. Many states and companies developing self-driving systems are exercising caution in the wake of accidents and even deaths.

But Florida is not just any state. This week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law that will allow fully autonomous vehicles on Florida roads “regardless of whether a human operator is physically present in the vehicle.” And if there is a human operator, they’re allowed to use wireless devices (aka text) and watch video screens (aka catch up on Chernobyl).

Surely this won’t be implemented until the technology is deemed safe, right? Wrong. The law goes into effect on July 1st.

Fortunately for locals and Disney World-bound families alike, there’s an asterisk to this seemingly harebrained decree; as Car and Driver notes, the law only applies to vehicles “designed to function without a human operator,” that is, “Level 4 and 5 self-driving vehicles, which do not yet exist outside of various test programs.”

Wait, so DeSantis just signed a law that has no appreciable effect? Yes, at least in the immediate future. Car and Driver writes that the real play here is competing with states like Arizona, California and Nevada which have already attracted the business of self-driving car companies.

The bill signing took place at one autonomous-vehicle testing facility that’s under construction, but time will tell if more companies flock to the state. For now, if you see an oncoming car without a driver in Miami, give it a wide berth.

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