Navigating the Road Ahead: Florida’s Autonomous Vehicle Statute and Its Effect on Liability
Imagine getting into your car, programming a destination, pulling out that book you have wanted to read while the car drives you to the destination by itself. No, it is not a scene from The Jetsons ;1 several companies are only a few years away from selling safe and effective cars that drive themselves without human intervention. Each day, more progress is made in advancing the technology.
Florida has taken the lead in establishing a statutory framework that legalizes limited use of autonomous cars. The statute encourages manufacturers that are developing autonomous vehicles to come to Florida to test their products. enacting this statute at such an early phase, when few other states have passed similar statutes, Florida is attempting to position itself to take advantage of the developing technology. If one or more manufacturers make Florida their primary place of business, the presence of the manufacturers could create new jobs for Floridians and create new tax revenue for the state. Additionally, the presence of one or more manufacturers could strengthen Florida’s reputation as a home for technological innovation.2 This article introduces the statutory framework and addresses the strengths of the statute, as well as areas that the statute does not address that may create challenges in the future.
Commercially available cars that drive themselves without human intervention may still seem like a concept from science fiction, but they are quickly nearing reality. The cars have been described as “self-driving cars,”3 “driverless cars,”4 and “automated motor vehicles.”5 Under Florida law, the cars are known as “autonomous vehicles.”6 While autonomous vehicles are unlikely to appear on the highway in the next year (unless that highway is shut down for testing, such as when Audi tested an autonomous vehicle in Tampa7 ), the technology has taken significant steps forward in the past years and is nearing the point of commercial viability.8 Florida, California, Nevada, and Michigan have already passed legislation to legalize the use of autonomous vehicles.9 Florida currently only requires a normal drivers’ license.10 However, California will issue drivers’ licenses specifically for autonomous vehicles,11 and Nevada will require an endorsement on the license to drive an autonomous vehicle.12 Autonomous cars have already made their presence known on Florida roads, albeit with special precautions.13
For many people, the prospect of sitting back and letting the car drive them to work is both exciting and terrifying. Long commutes can turn into productive work periods, offering time to catch up on reading or to watch a movie. The dangers caused by drivers texting while driving will no longer exist. The risks associated with driving while under the influence will be diminished. Several studies in the U.S. and the United Kingdom have estimated that human error is responsible for 90 percent to 99 percent of traffic accidents.14 Not only should autonomous vehicles be better drivers than most people, reducing total accidents,15 but also autonomous vehicles may actively warn other autonomous vehicles of dangerous road conditions.16
A new set of laws and regulations will be needed to address the new normal on the road. What should be the requirements to “drive” an autonomous vehicle? How old should a person be to drive an autonomous vehicle? Is it legal to take a nap while the car is driving? How much attention, if any, should the driver give the road? Can a person drive an autonomous vehicle while under the influence of alcohol? Who is responsible if an autonomous vehicle gets into an accident? Answers to these questions will require the involvement of the legislature, the department of transportation, and, ultimately, the courts. However, the Florida Legislature has already passed a statute that paves the way for the use of autonomous vehicles. Although the statute only addresses liability in limited aspects, it provides a foundation for the way the future legislatures and courts will address liability, if and when an autonomous vehicle gets into an accident.
For purposes of clarity and consistency, the person who is driving an autonomous vehicle will be referred to as the “operator.” “Operator” will have the meaning applied by Florida statute, which defines “operator” as the person who “causes the vehicle’s autonomous technology to engage, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the vehicle while the vehicle is operating in autonomous mode.”17 A person who is driving a traditional car with normal human intervention will be referred to as the “driver.”
The Florida Statute
Effective July 1, 2012, Florida legalized autonomous vehicles under limited circumstances.18 The law defines “autonomous vehicle” as “[a]ny vehicle equipped with autonomous technology.”19 “Autonomous technology” is then defined as technology in a vehicle that can drive the vehicle without the driver’s “active control or monitoring.”20 Additionally, the definition explicitly excludes the many driver assistance mechanisms currently in place, such as blind spot assistance, emergency braking, and even parallel parking assistance.21 The key to an autonomous vehicle is that the technology “enables the vehicle on which the technology is installed to drive without the active control or monitoring by a human operator.”22
While the definition will clearly divide most autonomous vehicles from traditional vehicles, the line may soon become obscured. BMW and Volvo have already announced a remote valet parking assistant, and Tesla Motors has indicated that it will soon introduce a similar feature.23 The system is described as being able to act as a traditional valet: The driver/operator is dropped off at a location, and the car then drives itself into a parking garage, finds a parking spot, parks, turns off, and at a scheduled time or when summoned, the car reactivates and meets the driver/operator at the pick-up location.24 While these vehicles will, for the most part, be driven like traditional vehicles, the installation of the remote valet parking assistant transforms the vehicles into autonomous vehicles under the definition of an autonomous vehicle in F.S. §316.003(90).25
Although it would be reasonable for devices such as the remote valet parking assistant to be subject to the same restrictions as a fully autonomous vehicle, the current statute restricts the use of any autonomous vehicle to only certain, designated individuals.26 Unless the statute is changed, it would be illegal to drive a BMW i3 with remote valet parking assistant, regardless of whether the feature is actually used.
For Testing Use Only
Autonomous vehicles may be used only for testing purposes. The vehicle must have an operator “present in the autonomous vehicle such that he or she has the ability to monitor the vehicle’s performance and intervene, if necessary.”27 Operators are limited to either the autonomous technology manufacturer’s “employees, contractors, or other designated persons,” or “research organizations associated with accredited educational institutions.”28 T he operators’ purpose must be the testing of autonomous technology. 29 An operator is not necessary if the autonomous vehicle is being tested on a closed course.30 Additionally, any entity testing an autonomous vehicle must submit a surety bond or proof of insurance in the amount of $5 million to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.31
In addition to setting the groundwork for the use of autonomous vehicles by the public, this provision encourages the early testing of autonomous vehicles in Florida. This may encourage manufacturers not only to test their technology in Florida, but also to develop and produce their technology in Florida. If manufacturers make Florida their primary place of business, the manufacturers could create new jobs for Floridians, generate new tax revenue for the state, and encourage the development of other new businesses that are related to the autonomous vehicles.
The requirement that a human operator be present and capable of taking over vehicle functions limits the consumer use of autonomous vehicles, at least for the time being. As long as the operator must sit behind the wheel, monitoring the vehicle’s performance, the statute will limit the use of autonomous vehicles to the testing phase. However, the Florida Legislature has shown a willingness to update and revise the statute as necessary, as illustrated by a 2014 amendment to F.S. §316.86 to update the language and delete a provision that was already obsolete.32 This suggests that the legislature will be ready and willing to update the language when autonomous vehicles move beyond the testing phase and become ready for everyday use by consumers, as it must be if Florida is to remain at the forefront of the use and development of autonomous vehicles.
Who is the Operator, and When is the Operator Liable?
Other provisions in the law look further into the future, with applications beyond the testing phase anticipated by F.S. §316.86. Any person with a valid driver’s license may operate an autonomous vehicle.33 This provision places responsibility on the person who puts the vehicle into autonomous mode. However, it is easy to anticipate situations in which the operator could be partially responsible, but a passenger in the vehicle who disengages the autonomous mode or otherwise interferes with the autonomous mode is also responsible.
• Liability Questions — F.S. §316.86 answers some liability questions, but simultaneously creates more questions, particularly within the definition of “operator.” The section establishes that the operator must have a driver’s license, eliminating any questions as to whether a child can operate the vehicle. However, it leaves open other means of operation that could be extremely negligent.
Under current law, a person driving an automobile has a duty to use reasonable care while driving. “We also must be ever mindful that motorists in Florida have a continuing duty to use reasonable care on the roadways to avoid accidents and injury to themselves or others.”34 Generally, it is simple to determine who is the driver of a vehicle because the driver is the person sitting behind the steering wheel. Thus, determining who is tasked with the “continuing duty to use reasonable care” is easy to determine.
However, under F.S. §316.85, a person can be the operator by putting a child into an autonomous vehicle and engaging the autonomous mode without riding in the vehicle. This could be done either by exiting the vehicle before the vehicle drives to its destination or by activating the autonomous technology remotely.35 While safety mechanisms in the autonomous vehicles themselves may prevent this from happening, it is not certain, at this point, whether those mechanisms will exist. It is already possible to put a traditional car into neutral or drive and hop out of the car. This is obviously not advisable if the person wants to use the car again, but when the car can drive itself, the risk of an accident is reduced.
This possibility, along with the simple chance that an accident may occur, creates questions as to how liability will be determined. “Motorists have a duty to use reasonable care on the roadways to avoid accidents.”36 Regardless of the conditions outside of the vehicle, the driver is given “the responsibility of having his vehicle under control at all times, commensurate with the circumstances and the locale, and to maintain a sharp and attentive lookout in order to keep himself prepared to meet the exigencies of an emergency within reason and consistent with reasonable care and caution.”37 The driver of an automobile does not have an absolute right to rely on a third person’s direction.38
Applying the standard liability requirements to an autonomous vehicle creates significant problems. Is the operator relying on a “third person” (the computer) to direct the vehicle? The operator most likely is relying on the computer, but the level of the operator’s reliance may depend on how closely the operator is watching the road. If the operator is required to focus on the road in the same way as a driver of a traditional car, however, many of the benefits of an autonomous vehicle are lost. If an operator sends an autonomous car on its way without remaining in the car, is the operator absolutely liable for any damage the car may cause? If a child or even another adult inside the car interferes with the autonomous technology during the drive, how is the operator’s liability affected? If another driver negligently runs into the autonomous vehicle, how is the negligence apportioned? Is sending an autonomous vehicle on its way without remaining in the car negligent or even reckless? This article will not try to answer these questions. However, when autonomous vehicles begin to appear on the streets, the questions will need to be asked and ultimately answered, either in the legislature or the courts.
• Texting Permitted — In addition to the significant changes that legalize the use and regulation of autonomous vehicles, the legislature amended the texting-while-driving statute to adjust to autonomous vehicles. Texting while operating an autonomous vehicle is not prohibited.39 One of the primary benefits of autonomous vehicles, especially from the viewpoint of the consumer, will be the ability to perform other tasks while driving. Permitting texting while operating an autonomous vehicle, therefore, seems reasonable.
• Autonomous Trucks — A key safety benefit of autonomous vehicles could be a fully automated semi-truck fleet.40 Self-driving semi-trucks could significantly reduce serious accidents. “In 2012, according to [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], 333,000 large trucks were in crashes in the US. Those accidents killed nearly 4,000 people, the vast majority of whom were riding in passenger vehicles.”41 In Florida, 197 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2013.42 Replacing drivers, who make mistakes and get tired, with automated trucks that do not get tired and should, as the technology develops, make few mistakes, could significantly reduce those accidents and deaths. If those accidents and deaths are reduced by autonomous trucks, then autonomous trucks could become pervasive on the roads. Additionally, the autonomous truck, unlike a traditional truck driver, would not need to stop to sleep at night, permitting the truck to travel greater distances faster than a traditionally driven truck.
While the benefits of autonomous trucks could be great, under the current Florida statute, it is unclear who would be considered the operator. At the beginning of their use, an operator may also ride in the autonomous truck to take over in emergencies and ensure that the truck operates properly. In that case, the operator would be the person who engaged the autonomous technology and stayed in the truck. However, if no human operator is present, and the trucks are controlled from a central location, the operator could become a company, or even another computer. If and when that point is reached, the legislature will need to revisit the current definition of operator.
While the practical requirements that define an operator of an autonomous vehicle create a base from which liability may be determined, the definition of operator as currently written will probably need further modification as autonomous vehicles appear on the roads.
Regulation and Registration of an Autonomous Vehicle
The statute establishes a framework of basic requirements for an autonomous vehicle, while acknowledging that additional regulations will come in the future. An autonomous vehicle must meet “federal standards and regulations for a motor vehicle” to be registered in Florida.43 If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration promulgates standards that conflict with the Florida statute, the federal standards will control.44 In addition to this basic requirement of meeting federal standards, the vehicle must also “[b]e capable of being operated in compliance with the applicable traffic and motor vehicle laws of this state.”45 The autonomous vehicle must also have “a means to engage and disengage the autonomous technology which is easily accessible to the operator,” as well as a visual means to “indicate when the vehicle is operating in autonomous mode.”46 If the autonomous technology detects a failure in its ability to operate safely, the technology must have a means of alerting the operator of the failure so that the operator may take control of the vehicle.47
Limited Liability for the Manufacturer Whose Vehicle is Converted Into an Autonomous Vehicle by a Third Party
The statute includes a limitation on liability, which limits the original manufacturer’s liability if the original manufacturer did not design the vehicle as autonomous. “The original manufacturer of a vehicle converted by a third party into an autonomous vehicle ” is not liable in an action against the original manufacturer alleging a “defect caused by the conversion of the vehicle, or by equipment installed by the converter.”48 However, the provision excludes an original manufacturer who designed the vehicle to be autonomous.49
This provision provides an important protection to manufacturers of vehicles that are transformed into autonomous vehicles. Google has been one of the early developers of autonomous vehicles, but it has developed some of its autonomous vehicles without building the car itself.50 In addition to designing an autonomous vehicle from scratch, Google has developed a system that installs into a regular car to convert it into an autonomous car.51 More than four years ago, Google had already developed a “fleet of robotic Toyota Priuses,”52 while more recent reports indicate that Google also uses Lexus vehicles.53 If one of Google’s systems, or one like it, is installed onto a Prius manufactured by Toyota, then, under Florida’s statute, Toyota would not be responsible for any product defects caused by the conversion of the car or any product defects in the system itself.54 This rule seems fair, given the fact that Toyota would not have any control over either the conversion or the autonomous technology system. This statute should prevent unnecessary litigation against a defendant who had no ability to prevent the product defect, short of designing an “unconvertible” vehicle.
However, the statute also carefully restricts the limitation of liability only to the “original manufacturer” when the autonomous technology was installed afterward by a third party, and when the defect was not present when the vehicle was originally manufactured.55 This restriction ensures that if a vehicle manufacturer chooses to go into the business of manufacturing autonomous vehicles, that company may still be liable for defects in the technology that it designs.56 Further, it also ensures that traditional liability for design defects is still available when a vehicle is converted into an autonomous vehicle.57
Liability of the Manufacturer of the Autonomous Technology
The statute does not address the liability of the manufacturer of the autonomous technology, or the manufacturer of an autonomous vehicle that was designed to be autonomous. This suggests that traditional product liability law will apply, at least initially, to claims against the manufacturers. When cases are brought against the manufacturers, there will be no shortage of parties to sue. Google announced some of its partners in developing autonomous technology at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in early 2015.58 The list included eight companies that were involved in the process of building Google’s autonomous vehicle.59 Other autonomous vehicle manufacturers will probably include components from multiple sources as well.
While there are a variety of ways liability could be apportioned between the operator, passengers, and the other driver, the manufacturer of the autonomous vehicle will be a primary target for litigation, particularly when the technology first becomes available, because the manufacturer will frequently represent the primary “deep pocket” for an injured person to target. Vehicle manufacturers may be subject to products liability claims, just like any other manufacturer, and there is no reason to believe that a manufacturer of autonomous vehicles will be treated any differently.60 When a products liability claim is brought against the manufacturer, other companies in the chain of distribution, such as the retailers and distributors, may also be liable.61 Additionally, the component part manufacturers may also be liable if the component is defective.62
When the target of the lawsuit is an autonomous vehicle manufacturer, determining who else in the chain of distribution may be liable will be a significant piece of the litigation. In the case of Google, which has released the names of at least some of the companies with which it is working, the list includes a company that designs the electronic powertrains, a company that designs seats, another that does general engineering design for vehicles, and another that appears to be involved in supplying electronic components.63 Depending on the defect, any of these companies could also be involved in the lawsuit. When the manufacturer does not have the same capability to design the programs to operate the autonomous vehicle as Google, as is likely with many of the traditional car manufacturers, the company that designed the program that drives the autonomous vehicle, or the maps on which the vehicle relies, could also be a defendant.
When addressing claims against the manufacturer and the chain of distribution, traditional products liability standards will probably provide a good basis for determining liability without the need for significant changes. However, as each case arises, unique factors will come into play, and courts will apply the common law as they have done for centuries to address previously unforeseen fact patterns that will inevitably occur.
Autonomous vehicles are a new type of technology that will require a reimagining of liability as it applies to automobiles. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to create safer roads and more efficient vehicles. The vehicles also have the potential to create a new source of free time for commuters who spend hours traveling to and from work each week. Whether that time is spent working, in leisure or even napping, it will transform what has traditionally been wasted time into useful time. Additionally, if the bulk of cars on the road are autonomous, congestion may ease as fewer accidents will occur. Florida has taken the first step in making this possibility a reality by establishing a basic framework in which autonomous vehicles can be developed and eventually authorized and regulated.
While the benefits of autonomous vehicles may be great, there will likely be accidents and mishaps, especially when the technology is in its infancy and most of the cars on the road are not autonomous. These accidents will require the application of developed law to familiar issues, as well the creation of new law to adapt to the unique features of autonomous vehicles. Florida can take additional steps to prepare for these unique features by enacting legislation or regulations to give courts guidance before autonomous vehicles are commercially available. If no legislation or regulations are enacted, then courts will likely address the unique features as they always have, by applying and adapting the common law to each new situation. Autonomous vehicles will arrive in the near future, the only question is will the law be ready?
1 The Jetsons was an animated television show that aired during the 1960s and 1980s featuring a family living in a futuristic world.
2 See Laura Wides-Munoz, Why Miami May Become America’s Next Great Tech Hub, Huffington Post, July 6, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/06/miami-tech-hub_n_5268537.html ; Camila Souza, Miami is One of Five Tech Hubs You Didn’t Know About [Video], Tech Cocktail, Jan. 3, 2015, http://tech.co/miami-one-five-tech-hubs-didnt-know-video-2015-01 (citing a report by SmartAsset).
3 Jason H. Harper, Self-Driving Cars Are No Longer a Thing of the Future, Time Magazine (Jan. 9, 2015), available at http://time.com/3661446/self-driving-driverless-cars-ces/.
4 Leo Kelion, Could Driverless Cars Own Themselves?, BBC News, Feb. 15, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30998361.
5 Mich. Comp. Laws §257.2b(1).
6 Fla. Stat. §316.003(90),
7 See Angela Moscaritolo, Automated Audi Cruises Down Florida Highway, PC Magazine (July 28, 2014), available at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461509,00.asp.
8 Harper, Self-Driving Cars Are No Longer a Thing of the Future, Time Magazine (Jan. 9, 2015), available at http://time.com/3661446/self-driving-driverless-cars-ces/.
9 Fla. Stat. §316.86; Cal. Veh. Code §38750; Nev. Rev. Stat. §482A.010, et seq.; Mich. Comp. Laws §257.2b.
10 Fla. Stat. §316.85(1).
11 Cal. Veh. Code §38750(b), (c) (requiring the California Department of Motor Vehicles to create new driver’s licenses that permits the license-holder to operate an autonomous car).
12 Nev. Rev. Stat. §482A.200 (“The [d]epartment shall by regulation establish a driver’s license endorsement for the operation of an autonomous vehicle on the highways of this [s]tate.”).
13 See Moscaritolo, Automated Audi Cruises Down Florida Highway, PC Magazine (July 28, 2014), available at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461509,00.asp.
14 Bryant Walker Smith, Human Error as a Cause of Vehicle Crashes, The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School (Dec. 18, 2013), available at http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2013/12/human-error-cause-vehicle-crashes (citing to studies conducted in the U.S. and the U.K.). See generally National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Motor Vehicle Causation Survey, DOT HS 811 059 (July 2008), available at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811059.pdf ; Paul Salmon, Michael Regan, & Ian Johnston, Human Error and Road Transport: Phase One – Literature Review, Report No. 256, Monash University Accident Research Centre at 88-89 (Dec. 2005).
15 Tom Simonite, Data Shows Google’s Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than You or I, MIT Technology Rev. (Oct. 25, 2013), available at http://www.technologyreview.com/news/520746/data-shows-googles-robot-cars-are-smoother-safer-drivers-than-you-or-i/ (describing the ways in which autonomous cars drove more safely than humans driving the same vehicles).
16 Volvo Cars of North America, Scandinavian Cloud-Based Project for Sharing Road Condition Becomes a Reality (Feb. 12, 2015), available at https://www.media.volvocars.com/us/en-us/media/pressreleases/157065/volvo-cars-puts-1000-test-cars-to-use-scandinavian-cloud-based-project-for-sharing-road-condition-in (describing Volvo’s development of a “slippery-road alert” and a “hazard-light alert” to warn other connected vehicles and road administrators of ice patches or “if another vehicle in the area has its hazard lights on.” The system could apply to both traditional and autonomous vehicles.).
17 Fla. Stat. §316.85(2).
18 See Ana M. Valdes, Florida Embraces Self-Driving Cars, as Engineers and Lawmakers Prepare for the New Technology, WPTV (May 7, 2012), available at http://www.wptv.com/news/state/florida-embraces-self-driving-cars-as-engineers-and-lawmakers-prepare-for-the-new-technology.
19 Fla. Stat. §316.003(90).
23 Stephen Edelstein, Can’t Find a Spot? Let the Car Do It. BMW Turns an i3 Into a Valet for CES 2015, Digital Trends (Dec. 16, 2014), http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/bmw-to-show-self-parking-car-tech-at-ces-2015/ ; Willie Jones, BMW to Demonstrate Car That Can Find a Spot and Park Itself in a Garage, IEEE Spectrum (Dec. 18, 2014), http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/car-park-thyself.
25 Fla. Stat. §316.003(90) (defining an autonomous vehicle as “[a]ny vehicle equipped with autonomous technology”).
26 Fla. Stat. §316.86(1) (“Vehicles equipped with autonomous technology may be operated on roads in this state by employees, contractors, or other persons designated by manufacturers of autonomous technology, or by research organizations associated with accredited educational institutions, for the purpose of testing the technology.”).
31 Fla. Stat. §316.86(1).
32 FL LEGIS 2014-216, 2014 Fla. Sess. Law Serv. Ch. 2014-216 (C.S.C.S.H.B. 7005) (“[A]mending [F.S. §]316.86…revising provisions relating to the operation of vehicles equipped with autonomous technology on state roads for testing purposes; authorizing certain research organizations to operate such vehicles; deleting an obsolete provision.”).
33 Fla. Stat. §316.85(1).
34 Williams v. Davis, 974 So. 2d 1052, 1063 (Fla. 2007).
35 The remote valet parking assistant already anticipates the ability to summon a car remotely, thus, activating the autonomous technology. See Stephen Edelstein, Can’t Find a Spot? Let the Car Do It. BMW Turns an i3 Into a Valet for CES 2015, Digital Trends (Dec. 16, 2014), available at http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/bmw-to-show-self-parking-car-tech-at-ces-2015/.
36 Moreno v. Salem, 993 So. 2d 588, 589 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008).
37 Bellere v. Madsen, 114 So. 2d 619, 621 (Fla. 1959).
38 Dixie Farms, Inc. v. Timmons, 323 So. 2d 637, 639 (Fla. 3d DCA 1975) (“A driver does not have an absolute right to rely upon the judgment of a third person concerning whether he should proceed into a dangerous area with his automobile.”).
39 Fla. Stat. §316.305(3)(b)(7).
40 Alex Davies, Mercedes Is Making a Self-Driving Semi to Change the Future of Shipping, Wired (Oct. 7, 2014), available at http://www.wired.com/2014/10/mercedes-making-self-driving-semi-change-future-shipping/; U.S. Dep’t of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Traffic Safety Facts, 2012 Data, DOT HS 811 868 (May 2014), available at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811868.pdf.
42 U.S. Dep’t of Transp. Nat. Highway Traffic Safety Admin., Traffic Safety Facts Florida 2009-2013 at 14, available at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/STSI/12_FL/2013/12_FL_2013.PDF.
43 Fla. Stat. §319.145(1).
44 Fla. Stat. §319.145(2).
45 Fla. Stat. §319.145(1)(d).
46 Fla. Stat. §319.145(1)(a), (b).
47 Fla. Stat. §319.145(1)(c).
48 Fla. Stat. §316.86(2) (emphasis added).
49 Id. (“[U]nless the alleged defect was present in the vehicle as originally manufactured.”).
50 Erico Guizzo, How Google’s Self-Driving Car Works, IEEE Spectrum (Oct. 18, 2011), available at http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/how-google-self-driving-car-works ; Tom Simonite, Data Shows Google’s Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than You or I, MIT Technology Rev. (Oct. 25, 2013), available at http://www.technologyreview.com/news/520746/data-shows-googles-robot-cars-are-smoother-safer-drivers-than-you-or-i/.
51 Amir Efrati, What It’s Like to “Drive”Google’s Robo-Car, Wall Street J., Oct. 11, 2012, available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443294904578046871493923116 (describing the “spinning laser device mounted atop our Lexus spraying 1.5 million beams a second to 230 feet in all directions,” as well as a radar on the front grille and a camera on the windshield).
52 Erico Guizzo, How Google’s Self-Driving Car Works, IEEE Spectrum (Oct. 18, 2011), available at http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/how-google-self-driving-car-works (“Google’s fleet of robotic Toyota Priuses has now logged more than 190,000 miles (about 300,000 kilometers), driving in city traffic, busy highways, and mountainous roads with only occasional human intervention.”).
53 Tom Simonite, Data Shows Google’s Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than You or I, MIT Technology Rev. (Oct. 25, 2013), available at http://www.technologyreview.com/news/520746/data-shows-googles-robot-cars-are-smoother-safer-drivers-than-you-or-i/.
54 Fla. Stat. §316.86(2).
56 See id. Audi has already engaged in at least one test drive with an autonomous vehicle in Florida. See Angela Moscaritolo, Automated Audi Cruises Down Florida Highway, PC Magazine (July 28, 2014), available at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461509,00.asp.
57 See id.
58 Mark Harris, Google’s Self-Driving Car Pals Revealed, IEEE Spectrum (Jan. 19, 2015), available at http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/googles-selfdriving-car-pals-revealed.
59 Id. (explaining that “project director Chris Urmson named Continental, Roush, Bosch, ZFLS, RCO, FRIMO, Prefix, and LG as companies that had helped to build the pod-like vehicle”).
60 Miller v. Allstate Ins. Co., 650 So. 2d 671, 675 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995) (describing the way that the plaintiff should have sued Cadillac under a product liability theory rather than only her insurer).
61 Ugaz v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 576 F. Supp. 2d 1354, 1375 (S.D. Fla. 2008); Samuel Friedland Family Enterprises v. Amoroso, 630 So. 2d 1067, 1068 (Fla. 1994) (explaining that the companies in the chain of distribution may be liable in a strict products liability context).
62 Scheman-Gonzalez v. Saber Mfg. Co., 816 So. 2d 1133, 1141 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002) (explaining that the component part manufacturer of only a part of the allegedly defective wheel “could be responsible if its rim was itself defective, or if the allegedly defective rim was essentially unchanged when integrated into the final unit”).
63 Mark Harris, Google’s Self-Driving Car Pals Revealed, IEEE Spectrum (Jan. 19, 2015), available at http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/googles-selfdriving-car-pals-revealed.
John W. Terwilleger is an attorney at Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart in West Palm Beach and practices business and employment litigation.