Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Column: Florida is leading the way to a driverless future

FILE â\u0080\u0094 Waymo demonstrates its driverless technology at a media event in Chandler, Ariz., June 28, 2017. Waymo â\u0080\u0094 a unit of Googleâ\u0080\u0099s parent, Alphabet â\u0080\u0094 is enlisting the largest auto retailer in the United States, AutoNation, to maintain and repair the growing number of driverless vehicles Waymo is testing around the country. (Caitlin O'Hara/The New York Times) XNYT136
Published Nov. 17, 2017

There is a new city being developed in southeast Florida near Babcock Ranch where some 50,000 residents will have access to one of the first driverless taxi networks in the country. This is yet another example of how Florida is now an important hub for autonomous vehicle technology, proving to states around the country that forward-thinking policies can trigger unprecedented innovation and investment.

From its inception, Babcock Ranch's new development was designed to be a haven for those who want to say goodbye to traditional forms of transportation. In addition to driverless taxis, the town will also have autonomous pods — designated for one or two passengers — as well as autonomous buses.

More communities like this are likely to crop up around the state in the coming years, as Florida emerges as a leader in the race toward a driverless future. The state first embraced the technology in 2011 when it began to experiment with a connected vehicle network along a stretch of Interstate 4, and lawmakers passed a bill last year to clear the way for more expanded testing. They have sent a clear message to the driverless industry that Florida is not only open for business, but that it wants to play a significant role in shaping the future of 21st century mobility and transportation.

This leadership has prompted collaboration from agencies and institutions across the state. The city of Orlando, Florida Polytechnic University and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, among others, have come together to establish the Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partnership, which will break ground on a host of new testing and simulation facilities that researchers will use to figure out how autonomous technology can be most safely deployed.

Federal policymakers are taking note of Florida's bold initiatives. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Central Florida will be a pilot site for testing driverless technology. As a part of the plan, the Kennedy Space Center will serve as a testing facility where researchers can determine how these vehicles can operate most safely in extreme weather and other unusual roadway conditions. There will also be a new 400-acre facility in Polk County called SunTrax, where researchers will explore how autonomous vehicles should interact with pedestrians and bicycles.

Lawmakers beyond Florida's borders are drawing up their own plans to ensure residents and businesses in their states will benefit from driverless technology. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order to ensure companies designing and manufacturing autonomous hardware and software are not burdened by overly restrictive regulations. In Pennsylvania, officials in Pittsburgh are teaming up with Uber to develop a citywide system for driverless cabs. And in Michigan, legislators, business leaders and academic researchers have worked together on a program to create safe connected-car technologies that can make roads less congested.

Initiatives such as these provide a road map for how state and local policymakers across the country can embrace forward-thinking policies that will provide new opportunities to residents and businesses and attract investment that can help boost local economies. Autonomous technology will soon transform day-to-day travel for Americans and open up a world of new possibilities for businesses to transform their operations and better serve customers. Policymakers in Florida are showing other states how smart rules and policies will soon make this exciting vision for the future a reality.

Joe Rinzel is a spokesman for Americans for a Modern Economy, a consumer advocacy group focused on modernizing antiquated regulations and laws governing the U.S. economy.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Editorial cartoons for Wednesday from Times wire services Andy Marlette/Creators Syndicate
  2. The M-16 is a pure military weapon. File photo
    Wednesday’s letters to the editor
  3. State Rep. Chris Sprowls, 35, R-Palm Harbor, speaks Tuesday after Republicans selected him as the next House speaker.  Associated Press I Caina Calvan BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP
    The Palm Harbor Republican will become the second Florida House speaker from Pinellas.
  4. Hernando County community news Tara McCarty
  5. editorial cartoon from times wires Andy Marlette -- Pensacola News Journal
  6. Governor Ron DeSantis. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times] "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s paper.
  7. Chris Corr is the president of Raydient Places & Properties, Rayonier, and the chair of the Florida Council of 100, a nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders. Tim Nickens
    The Council of 100 focuses on new strategies to recruit and retain the best teachers. | Column
  8. Oil can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, as a large plume of smoke rises from fires on BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in April 2010.  [Associated Press]
    The House has voted to permanently ban oil drilling off the Gulf Coast. Now the Senate should approve it.
  9. Oscar-winning pop star Sam Smith, who is non-binary, announced Friday that they now use "they/them" as their third-person pronouns. On social media, they said that "after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am ..." JOEL C RYAN  |  Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP
    The singer now uses they/them pronouns. It shouldn’t be hard for reporters to recognize — and explain — gender non-binary terms. | Ashley Dye
  10. After more than 18 years as a Times columnist, Ernest Hooper starts a new chapter as assistant sports editor. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After more than 18 years as a Times columnist, Ernest Hooper starts a new chapter as assistant sports editor.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement