What does this have to do with Florida? Surprisingly, quite a lot. Many people in the state are unaware of this, but Florida is one of only a few states in the country that has already approved the use of self-driving cars for testing purposes on our roads. Nevada was the first state to approve the use of self-driving cars. Florida was actually the second, with California, Michigan and Washington DC following.
This means that it’s theoretically possible to see a car with a driver not actually driving on the highways and streets of Florida, as companies like Google prepare for a future where anyone that can afford a car can still go on the road. Audi has already been testing their own self-driving cars on Tampa highways. Self-driving trucks are slated to enter our roadways by the end of the year for construction purposes, as a way to aid road crews doing work on our streets and highways.
This is an especially exciting prospect that gives even more freedom to the senior population of Florida, both resident and seasonal, as it means they can enjoy the same automotive freedom they had in younger years, even if they no longer have the requirements for a license.
But what does this mean legally? Right now the Florida legislature for self-driving cars is worded in such a way that it’s obvious this will need to be readdressed in the future. According to the current regulations, operators of self-driving cars still require a license. However, the liability of a self-driving car in the event of an accident does not fall on the manufacturer of the car, but the person, persons or company responsible for adding the “aftermarket” parts that enable the car to drive itself.
In other words, for the moment, if a self-driving car gets into an accident, whoever it is that made the car able to drive by itself is the one that goes to court in event of a legal dispute. For now, that means that only the companies that do this, such as Google, Honda and Audi hold responsibility since they are the only ones with the means to convert normal cars into autonomous ones.
In the future however, as the cars become everyday products, with the possibility for “kit conversions” of normal cars to self-driving ones, this law will need to be looked at again. Right now it absolves insurance companies from any kind of involvement in a legal dispute, something that is sure to be impractical as more and more of these cars go on the road.
One thing is clear. The future is coming, and Florida will need to adjust its laws accordingly to meet it..