Florida will allow autonomous test cars to operate without a human backup driver

June 18, 2019

"Florida man" headlines may be a thing of the past when it comes to cars.

The Sunshine State will become home to the nation's least stringent autonomous car legislation come July 1. Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation into law last Thursday that does not require a self-driving test car to have a human driver present, Fox 13 reported.

The law is one of the more controversial aspects to self-driving car tests. Most states require a human backup driver behind the wheel to take over controls from the autonomous car should things go wrong. The new law nixes human presence, should companies decide their technology is prepared to handle public roads without a backup driver.

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So far, no automaker or technology company has readied and tested a self-driving car prototype without a human behind the wheel. General Motors came closest in 2018 when it showed a Cruise Automation prototype without a steering wheel or pedals. The automaker proclaimed it would deploy an autonomous car without the traditional controls sometime this year. Earlier this month, GM backtracked and said that won't happen after all. The federal government hasn't granted GM the exemption needed to test a car without driver controls and the automaker's autonomous car program has recently come under fire from safety groups.

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Many safety advocates say companies and automakers like GM haven't met crucial barriers or displayed evidence that their self-driving cars will be as safe as humans behind the wheel.

In Florida, the legislation is meant to attract more companies to the state to begin tests of self-driving cars. The state is home to a few test facilities, specifically, the SunTrax facility.

The governor added that the self-driving cars that fall under the new legislation will also be protected from various distracted driving laws, which will allow passengers inside to text while riding, for example.

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