Waymo Plans to Test its Self-Driving Vehicles in Florida

Self-driving cars are soon headed for the streets of Florida.  Self-driving vehicle manufacturer Waymo, a subsidiary of the same parent company that also owns Google, recently announced that it would begin test-driving its self-driving vehicles on Florida’s roads.  The company is doing so to further refine the ability of its vehicles, and in particular the software that controls those vehicles, to safely drive in poor weather conditions like Florida’s frequent downpours.  The company and some of its competitors have been testing their vehicles on the roads of Arizona, Pennsylvania, Washington, Michigan and California.  But this will be the first that Waymo, Uber or any of their self-driving vehicle competitors will take to the streets of Florida.  Although the Florida Legislature passed several measures earlier this year to make it easier for self-driving vehicle manufacturers to test-drive their vehicles on the Sunshine State’s roads, the less-than-perfect safety record of self-driving vehicles to date has led some safety advocates to question whether this is the right move for Florida pedestrians and motorists, given some of the past tragedies that have occurred in Florida and elsewhere involving autonomous driving systems and self-driving cars.

Waymo’s Plans for Florida

 A report from the Orlando Sentinel noted that Waymo will begin its operations in Florida by utilizing a closed course in Naples on the state’s West Coast to test out its cars’ sensors and how they handle heavy downpours.  The vehicles will then gradually be deployed on public roads in Miami and then along freeways and highways as far north in the Sunshine State as Orlando.  The vehicles that will be tested by the company in Florida include Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Jaguar I-Pace sport utility vehicles. The company also announced that all of its vehicles in Florida will have a human driver behind the wheel doing the actual driving while its sensors collect data on weather conditions and other drivers’ behaviors during inclement weather.  Waymo is interested in Florida because rainstorms, and the noise they generate, is particularly difficult for sensors used by the companies’ vehicles to operate in and because wet roads also cause other drivers to operate their vehicles differently.  These two challenges will help to further teach Waymo’s software how to further adapt to additional driving and weather conditions it has not experienced before.

A Positive Development for Florida?

Up until the recent announcement by Waymo, self-driving cars had not been spotted on the roads of Florida.  However, the company took pains to point out in statements regarding its plans that safety drivers would be behind the wheel of all of the vehicles as they drive on Florida roads.   The arrival of self-driving vehicles has also been hastened by recent actions taken by Florida’s Legislature in enacting legislation that would allow self-driving vehicles even without safety drivers to operate on the state’s roads.

Nevertheless, despite the enthusiastic greeting they have received from Florida’s Legislature, some questions remain as to whether this is truly the right move for motorists and pedestrians in the Sunshine State.  Although truly self-driving vehicles have not been on the roads of Florida until now, the state has had its fair share of tragedies involving autonomous driving technology.  Florida has experienced several deaths that were tied to drivers’ use of Tesla Autopilot software right before they were killed, including one death in Williston in Central Florida several years in which an inattentive driver using the Autopilot software without his hands on the wheel completely missed a semi-truck making a left turn in front of him.  Self-driving vehicles also have a somewhat spotty safety record, including a death in Arizona in which an Uber self-driving vehicle with a safety driver behind the wheel hit and killed a pedestrian crossing the street outside a crosswalk in January 2018 while the safety driver watched a TV show on her phone.  The fact that pedestrians have been killed by self-driving vehicles that were manned by safety drivers is not an encouraging sign for the introduction of Waymo to Florida.

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley

At Schwed Adams & McGinley, P.A., our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined legal experience.  With self-driving vehicles set to make their appearance on Florida’s roads, it is likely that motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents may occur as a result, regardless of how enthusiastically the state’s Legislature greets the arrival of self-driving cars.  As seen by some of the previous accidents on the roads of Florida and elsewhere that have involved autonomous driving systems or self-driving cars, self-driving cars have not been as reliable or as safe as billed by their manufacturers and they can still be involved in accidents in which human beings are injured or killed. Therefore, the jury is still out on whether this is the right move for Floridians.  If you have been involved in a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident, whether it involved a self-driving car or a real human being driving the car, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed Adams & McGinley can help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries.  Contact us at contact@schwedlawfirm.com or (877) 694-6079 for a free consultation today if you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident in Florida.