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Public Mistrust of driverless cars intensifies following new Florida legislation

In Florida, the senate passed a unanimous bill that would allow companies like Uber, Lyft and General Motors to start deploying autonomous vehicles however safety advocates have said that the state’s decision was rushed.

The legislation which was approved last week, would give driverless vehicles space for testing and it would give way for ride hailing companies to begin outlining guidelines.

The decision will be in the hands of the Republican governor of the state of Florida, Ron DeSantis to sign the legislation into the law officially.

However, safety advocates are against the state’s rush to regulate autonomous cars in the absence of federal guidelines for the new technology. Safety advocates have stated that they believe the industry was pushed by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to make this move and that it would make the state f Florida become a very dangerous “testing ground”.

“This equipment and this software at some point in time will fail, and right now, Florida is the testing ground,” said William Cotterall from the Florida Justice Association.

The US’s Department of Transportation (DoT) is currently encouraging businesses to apply a Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment (VSSA) if they plan to experiment with this kind of technology. This will ensure transparency and will let the public know that safety is a key priority.

A DoT report titled Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 stated that “US DoT encourages entities to make their VSSA available publicly as a way to promote transparency and strengthen public confidence in [self-driving] technologies.”

As a result of this, states like Florida have started creating their own rules.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states have passed regulations pertaining to the subject of self-driving vehicles and 11 governors in the US have issued executive orders related to the issue.

Automakers have complained that they are currently dealing with an uneven regulatory system which has posed problems for them and their ability to rollout new technology.

Vice president of advocacy for consumer Reports, David Friedman, argued that the issue of funding related to the matter needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

He also stated that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should deal with budgets regarding driverless cars as the current budget is less than $1 billion.

“It is not even clear yet that the industry is ready for detailed regulations because the technology is so obviously evolving,” said the director of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California Davis, Dan Sperling.

He added, “Most people have never even seen a driverless vehicle, let alone driven in one” which he thinks is the reason to why he public has been resistant and skeptical of this technology.