Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill this week that will drastically expand the testing and use of autonomous – or driverless – vehicles in Florida. The bill, which is now a law, removes the need for a human operator in an autonomous vehicle starting July 1.

The law authorizes a fully autonomous vehicle, which is defined as any vehicle equipped with an automated driving system, to operate in this state regardless of whether a human operator is physically present in the vehicle.

Partner Donald Fountain drives a vehicle with an autopilot feature, which allows a driver to stay in a lane a safe distance from other vehicles and change lanes without human intervention. “The driver assist technology is remarkable and groundbreaking,” Fountain said. “I truly believe its use, in conjunction with an attentive driver, provides enhanced safety.” While the vehicle can complete a series of basic driving tasks without the help of a human, it is not a driverless system like the vehicles the new law now authorizes.

The hope of some is that the legislation will make Florida a “go-to” destination for technology companies testing autonomous driving systems. For Florida residents, it means human-less cars could be hitting the roads as soon as next year.

Starsky Robotics, a San Francisco-based startup company, envisions commercial trucks operating on autopilot. They’ve stated they hope to start driverless deployments in Florida by the end of 2020. The law also provides flexibility to ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, who have invested millions in the testing of self-driving cars.

The new Florida law outlines that the vehicle must have a teleoperation system, which means a human must be supervising the driving trip remotely although they do not need to be physically present. It also outlines insurance requirements.

Autonomous driving is a new area of law and the requirements for consumer safety are still unfounded. Safeguards are limited and there is currently no state inspection of certification requirement. Despite it all, this new wave of transportation is coming to South Florida sooner rather than later.

“I have no doubt my grandchildren will be taking self-driving vehicles to school,” said Fountain.

If you’ve been in a car or truck accident – with or without a human driver – it’s in your best interest to contact a lawyer who can outline your legal options, if any. It’s free to call Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin. If we can help, we will – there is no obligation to call.