Testing Autonomous Cars at Research Center vs. on Florida Roads with No Rules

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With the spate of autonomous vehicle accidents that we hear about, there’s no doubt there’s a great need for testing before these vehicles will ever be ready for the average consumer.

However, there are no hard rules for this testing, while you would think there would be. While Argo AI will test its cars in a $15 million self-driving car research center, the state of Florida is deciding to do it on the open road. The state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signed new legislation that allows autonomous cars on the road with no human driver.

Various Ways to Test Autonomous Cars

Most likely the last line in the last paragraph scared you a little bit, the thought that autonomous cars are out on the road with no human drivers behind the wheel, or at least there’s a potential for them to be. You may be swearing off any driving in Florida during your summer vacation.

The new law states, “A fully autonomous vehicle may operate in this state regardless of whether a human operator is physically present in the vehicle.”

Not only does it make that bold statement, but the new law also amends previous traffic rules to better accommodate a future with self-driving cars. This includes a rule that gives an exemption to AVs from existing traffic laws that ban the use of a phone or watching TV while a vehicle is in motion.

Michigan and Texas allow “people-free vehicles” on the states’ roads, but Florida prohibits local regulations to differ from the state law. That means these rules apply wherever you go in the Sunshine State.

“They’re going to be treated like another car,” said law professor Dorothy Glancy, who specializes in transportation law at Santa Clara University. She feels it’s as if the state of Florida is telling everyone, “Bring your AVs to our state. We will not hassle you.”

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She also called the law very vague and felt it left too many key questions. She believes that definitions in the law are “great big marshmallows” with their lack of specifics.

Yet, Argo AI, a startup backed by Ford Motor Company, seems to be looking to do things a little more safely, as well as less frightening. They’re giving $15 million to Carnegie Mellon University to build a new research center.

The funds will be used by the Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research to “pursue advanced research projects to help overcome hurdles to enabling self-driving vehicles to operate in a wide variety of real-world conditions, such as winter weather or construction zone.”

Considering they are testing autonomous vehicles in Miami, Washington DC, Palo Alto, and Detroit, they really don’t need an expensive center, as Miami will be operating under Florida’s new law, and Detroit will be doing the same under Michigan’s existing law. They can test these cars out in the open.

Additionally, what they’re testing seems to be what everyone is most worried about with regard to autonomous vehicles. They’ll be testing the software and hardware self-driving cars use to “see” and “think.” If they’re going to be out on the open road without people behind the wheel, they need to be able to see and think as well as people, and I know there are many who believe they never will be able to do that.

Speeding Up the Timeline

It certainly seems like Florida, Michigan, and Texas are trying to speed up the autonomous car timeline like they want to get these cars out into the mainstream, safety be damned. But even if you discount that, there are still so many roadblocks preventing them from being an everyday occurrence and accepted worldwide.

Thankfully, there are companies like Argo AI that are looking to keep everything safe, but the fact that they’re backed by Ford indicates their bottom line is still financial, especially if they’re willing to pay $15 million to get there.

Does Florida’s new law for self-driving cars worry you? Does it seem like they’re trying to rush things a bit? What do you think will become of Argo AI’s research? Answer these questions and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura hails from the Chicago area and has been a writer and editor covering news, entertainment, and technology for nearly 20 years and has been with Onlinetivity since its inception, editing and covering news. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring new devices and mobile apps.