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Too soon for autonomous vehicles in Florida?

Thanks to legislation championed by Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, autonomous - self-driving - vehicles are legal in Florida. While they may eventually be a boon, particularly for older drivers, several high-profile car accidents have called their safety in question. Although state lawmakers and auto manufacturers are doing what they can to make such vehicles safer for travel on public roads, the types of accidents in which these vehicles have been involved call into question their readiness for public use.

In a 2016 Florida accident, a Tesla sedan in semi-autonomous mode smashed into tractor-trailer that pulled out in front of the car. The car did not recognize the big rig. The driver was killed. This year, in March, a Tesla SUV crashed on a highway near Mountain View, California, also killing its driver. In both cases, the drivers had the ability to react and take control of the cars, but failed to do so.

In perhaps the most highly-publicized of such cases, a semi-autonomous Uber vehicle that was being tested in Tempe, Arizona, hit and killed a pedestrian. A safety operator was in the diver's seat, behind the wheel of the vehicle, and also could have seized control before the accident. He also failed to do so. As a result, Uber entered into a settlement with the victim's family and ceased public testing of it semi-autonomous vehicles.

Anyone who has been injured in a collision with a self-driving or semi-autonomous vehicle should seek the advice of an attorney who has significant experience with car accident cases. Although this is an emerging area of law, autonomous vehicle accidents are still largely governed by the same legal standards as typical car accidents.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Florida law allows driverless vehicles. Does the law go too far?," Caitlin Johnson, April 2, 2018

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