Florida takes the prize for making some of the boldest (strangest? craziest?) news headlines. Maybe it’s the humidity. Or the heat. Maybe it’s the hurricanes. Well, here’s another: Florida has legalized self-driving cars with no humans on board.

The Florida Senate and House unanimously passed the Autonomous Vehicles bill, which essentially laid the groundwork to the legalization of self-driving cars. The bill has since been passed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis and will go into effect July 1.

Self-driving cars aren’t news to Floridians. But what makes this legislation stand out is that it opens the door for rideshare companies like Uber, Lyft and Waymo to use autonomous cars for their services.

Florida House Bill 311:

Autonomous Vehicles: Exempts autonomous vehicles & operators from certain prohibitions; provides that human operator is not required to operate fully autonomous vehicle; authorizes fully autonomous vehicle to operate regardless of presence of human operator; provides that automated driving system is deemed operator of autonomous vehicle operating with system engaged; authorizes Florida Turnpike Enterprise to enter into agreements to fund & operate facilities; provides requirements for insurance & operation of on-demand autonomous vehicle networks; revises registration requirements for autonomous vehicles; provides for uniformity of laws governing autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous car companies like Waymo could have a future in Florida soon.

Autonomous cars are happening

Twenty-nine states and Washington D.C. have enacted some kind of legislation regarding autonomous cars. The Sunshine State is a popular testing ground for self-driving cars given the year-round sunshine, which makes for ideal conditions. Self-driving cars have yet to prove themselves in severe weather conditions like snow storms or flooding waters.

In Tampa, on the West Coast of Florida, Starsky Robotics is busy testing self-driving trucks. Audi has also done testing in the area. In 2015, Tampa was one of four cities nationwide to receive $2.4 million in federal funding to be testing grounds for driverless car technology.

States with Autonomous Car Legislation

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. California
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Illinois
  9. Indiana
  10. Kentucky
  11. Louisiana
  12. Maine
  13. Michigan
  14. Mississippi
  15. Nebraska
  16. New York
  17. Nevada
  18. North Carolina
  19. North Dakota
  20. Oregon
  21. Pennsylvania
  22. South Carolina
  23. Tennessee
  24. Texas
  25. Utah
  26. Virginia
  27. Vermont
  28. Washington
  29. Wisconsin
  30. Washington D.C.

Source: ncsl.org

Would you Uber in a self-driving car?

I like to use rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. One accident is one too many, and I know a single speeding ticket could make my car insurance premium jump. Florida is the third most expensive state for car insurance, according to Insure.com, so keeping my good-driver discount is important. Keeping my car insurance down helps me budget more for savings and paying down my student loan debt.  

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But I’m not sure I’m keen to hop in a self-driving Uber … yet, anyway. What happens in an accident? With no driver, am I covered? Is the Uber car covered, or does my car insurance cover me?

Florida auto insurance requirements

Thankfully, it seems the Florida House Bill 311 does set up insurance parameters for ride-sharing companies that plan to use self-driving cars. The auto insurance requirements include:

A fully autonomous vehicle with the automated driving system engaged while logged on to an on-demand autonomous vehicle network or engaged in a prearranged ride must be covered by a policy of automobile insurance which provides:

  1. Primary liability coverage of at least $1 million for death, bodily injury, and property damage.
  2. Personal injury protection benefits that meet the minimum coverage amounts required under the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law.
  3. Uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage as required by the state of Florida.

The Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law requires all motor vehicle owners to carry a minimum of $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL). Being a no-fault state means that accident victims must seek claims with their own insurer - regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Florida is only 1 of 12 states that enact no-fault insurance laws. Check your auto insurance policy regularly and be sure you have the coverage you need.

It’s still too soon to see how autonomous cars will take over Florida, but it’s an interesting play to watch unfold. Stay tuned!