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Friday, 25 May 2018 18:20

Commentary: Florida, the Autonomous Vehicle Capital of North America

Written by Christopher Emmanuel, Florida Chamber of Commerce; Naples Daily News

Almost overnight, Florida has arguably become the autonomous vehicle capital of North America. Just look at the headlines for the past three months.

Voyage, a self-driving taxi service, has begun service in The Villages in Central Florida, north of Orlando. Transdev is starting shuttle service in the new autonomous-only community of Babcock Ranch at the Lee-Charlotte county line. And last month, Ford announced that Miami will be the test bed for its latest delivery service.

While some may wonder why these sophisticated companies are choosing Florida, to the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Autonomous Florida program, the reasons are clear.

Four factors help explain why the Sunshine State is leading the pack.

First, we have a pro-business and pro-autonomous regulatory climate, championed by lawmakers like Gov. Rick Scott and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. While other states like California have been increasing regulations on these businesses, Florida has rolled out the welcome mat. All too often, we do not give politicians credit where credit is due. Their efforts, alongside many other policymakers, have placed Florida in the driver’s seat for the coming driverless revolution.

Secondly, Florida has also constructively and properly implemented a statewide regulatory framework rather than relying on a patchwork of local government transportation regulations. Autonomous vehicles need a single statewide standard in the same ways that ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft did. Florida has that kind of standard.

Data is also playing a key role. Autonomous vehicles will produce, analyze and use massive amounts of data. To prepare for this coming demand, the Florida Legislature passed a means for the deployment of small cell networks that can bring 5G connections using existing infrastructure. These vehicles need both concrete and digital highways, and Florida has invested in both.

Finally, buy-in by state and local transportation professionals has been essential. Look no further than the work of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the agency’s plans for the Ultimate Urban Circulator, or U2C. Forward-thinking companies are excited to work with forward-thinking communities.

These things did not just happen on their own.

Policymakers, businesses and professionals have spent years preparing Florida for the next big thing in the global economy. It is exciting that the world is now taking notice.

To learn more about the intersection of Florida policy and autonomy, please visit

We thank Christopher Emmanuel, Florida Chamber of Commerce for reprint permission.

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