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GM Pushing Radical Robot Car Bill Through Florida Legislature

Florida is already out on the safety ledge with respect to self-driving car laws, and a new bill being advanced by General Motors will push us even further over the brink.

Last year, Florida became the first state in the nation to make it legal for a self-driving car to operate without a human being physically present in the vehicle. Critically, however, current Florida law does require that self-driving cars have a human “operator,” who in turn must have a valid driver’s license. Significantly, the licensed “operator” required under current law may be held legally accountable for a crash.

This year GM is pushing a bill, SB 1066 sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes, that would eliminate the licensed human operator requirement, and would instead deem the “autonomous technology” to be the operator. In other words, if GM’s Bill is passed, a first grader could get into a self-driving car, engage the vehicle’s “autonomous mode”—a term that is not defined in the Bill or elsewhere in Florida law—and then legally cruise down Florida’s roadways.

This Bill is fundamentally flawed and, if enacted, would be horrible for Floridians and the millions of tourists and other motorists who use our state’s roadways. First and foremost, the technology is simply not ready for open testing on public roads. Even companies like Tesla, which has been at the forefront of implementing autonomous features in consumer cars, instruct owners that their vehicles must be constantly monitored while operating with autopilot or similar autonomous features engaged. In fact, the latest model Tesla P100D, which is currently the only production vehicle with full autonomous hardware, requires the driver to hold the steering wheel during operation. If the driver takes his or her hands off the wheel, the vehicle will chime and require that the driver grab the wheel again.

Additionally, GM’s proposed legislation may leave many of those injured by robot cars without any recourse at all. As presently drafted, the effect of the GM Bill will be to shift legal fault away from human drivers and onto the vehicle manufacturer. This approach is inherently flawed because it overlooks the reality that foreign companies from nations like China, which generally does not recognize the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and has consistently refused to enforce U.S. judgments, will be heavily involved in the self-driving car marketplace.

Indeed, one of the major players in this arena is Faraday Future, which is owned by LeEco, a Chinese technology company. In addition to the jurisdictional concerns that exist for all foreign corporations, recent reports suggest that the company may be having money issues, creating yet another potential barrier to recovery for injured consumers. Under GM’s Bill, Chinese companies like Faraday Future will be able to beta test their self-driving cars on Florida roads with no licensed driver to monitor or be accountable for the vehicles’ operation. If one of those vehicles were to crash into a Floridian and cause him or her to suffer severe injuries, that individual and his or her family may very well be left without any avenue for recourse.

Even GM’s home state of Michigan has more stringent requirements that serve to protect the interests of that state’s motorists. Unlike GM’s Florida Bill, current Michigan law requires an automaker to post a $10 Million bond, or provide proof of equivalent insurance coverage, before the company’s robot cars can be operated on Michigan roadways. Floridians deserve the same level of protection as that in place for the citizens of GM’s home state.

So why is this radical robot car Bill flying through the legislature? Why has the Bill already passed through one House committee without any amendments? The obvious answer can be found here, on the Florida House of Representative’s website that shows how many lobbyists have registered for a particular bill. At last count, at least 10 lobbyists have filed appearances on this legislation.

This Bill is not about good public policy. It’s unquestionably bad policy, and will make Florida laws for robot cars an even further outlier from all other 49 states. Hopefully before this Bill moves further it can be amended to provide some basic protections for all the innocent drivers who are at risk from robot cars that are still in beta testing by not only American companies like GM, but also by foreign companies such as the Chinese-owned Faraday Future.

Meanwhile, check out this YouTube video which shows a Tesla driver asleep at the wheel while “driving” down the highway with the vehicle’s autopilot feature engaged.

 

Florida Constitution Revision Commission Holds First Public Hearing Next Week in Orlando

The 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission will hold its first public hearing next week in Orlando at the UCF Fairwinds Alumni Center starting at 5:00 pm. This public hearing was announced on Monday during the Commission’s organizational session. Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission – or “CRC” – was first created in 1968. The CRC is comprised […]

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Newsome Melton Auto Recall Round Up

Defective Seatbelts; Hyundai Recalls 978,000 Sonatas             Seatbelts found in nearly one-million Hyundai vehicles can allegedly unfasten in a crash leading to a massive recall. The announcement affects the Hyundai Sonata sold under model years 2011 to 2014 and the Sonata hybrid from model years 2011 to 2015. Hyundai told authorities that during assembly the […]

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Snowshoes May Break During Use; L.L. Bean Recalls 3,000

Snowshoes are designed to redistribute a person’s weight over an area greater than their shoe size so they can traverse snow without sinking or getting stuck. But if the material cannot hold the weight of the operator the snowshoe can break and make it even harder to travel over snowy conditions. After learning of at […]

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Energizer Batteries Pose Burn Threat; 130,810 XBOX ONE Chargers Recalled

Overheating batteries continue to plague both manufacturers and the consumers who purchase wireless technologies. Defective batteries that power laptops, smartphones, hoverboards, and most recently XBOX ONE video game controllers, have led to millions of products deemed unsafe by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. After learning of 24 alleged incidents of their batteries “overheating and deforming […]

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2-Year-Old Ashanti Hughes Becomes First Fatality Connected to a Hoverboard Fire

Last week on March 11th, tragedy struck the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after a charging hoverboard allegedly overheated and sparked a fire that spread throughout a family’s home. The fire, which quickly engulfed the entire house, claimed the life of 2-year old Ashanti Hughes. To make matters worse, Lieutenant Dennis DeVoe, a firefighter on route […]

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Side Airbags May Deploy Unexpectedly; Nissan Recalls 54,000

             In many countries around the world slamming the car door is a sign of disrespect to the owner of the vehicle. This is not necessarily the case in the United States, but some Nissan owners may want to rethink their approach as the automaker announced the recall of over 54,000 cars because the side […]

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Mercedes-Benz Engines Can Catch Fire; Daimler AG Recalls One Million Vehicles

Vehicle Recalls, NHTSA, Mercedes Recalls, Benz Recalls

Mercedes-Benz, owned by Daimler AG, has announced the recall of around one million of their vehicles worldwide over a potential fire hazard. The German automaker told U.S. Authorities that they have received 30 reports of their engines catching fire in the U.S. leading to the recall of 354,434 vehicles. Around 650,000 additional vehicles were recalled […]

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Toddler Swings Can Break Without Warning; Little Tikes Recalls 540,000

Little Tikes, an Ohio based toy manufacturer, has announced the recall of roughly 540,000 toddler swings in the U.S. after receiving two reports of young children falling and breaking their arms. Little Tikes told U.S. Authorities that 140 incidents have been reported leading to a total of 39 injured children in connection with their 2-in-1 […]

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Defective Transmission Installation Leads Isuzu to Recall 21,000 Diesel Trucks

Last month Isuzu, one of the largest diesel engine manufacturers in the world, announced the recall of approximately 21,000 vehicles because of improper assembly. In addition to their own trucks, the Japanese based company provides their diesel engines to other major automakers like GM, Ford, and Renault-Nissan. Isuzu Technical Center of America Inc. communicated to […]

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