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GM Pushing Radical Robot Car Bill Through Florida Legislature

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.

 

Products Liability Still Under Attack: The Latest Effort to Change Florida’s Jury Instructions

Products Liability Still Under Attack: The Latest Effort to Change Florida’s Jury Instructions

Products Liability Still Under Attack: The Latest Effort to Change Florida’s Jury Instructions The Florida Supreme Court adopted the doctrine of strict products liability in its 1976 decision in West v. Caterpillar, declaring: “The cost of injuries or damages, either to persons or property, resulting from defective products, should be borne by the makers of […]

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Seat Back Collapse Litigation: Alive and Well

Seat Back Collapse Litigation: Alive and Well

During the past several months, our firm has reviewed several new potential cases involving seat back collapse. These cases all involved relatively late model vehicles where the seat backs collapsed in a moderate speed rear end crash, resulting in severe spinal cord injuries. Seat back collapse litigation has been ongoing between injured consumers and the […]

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Strict Products Liability Restored: The Florida Supreme Court Definitively Rules that the Second Restatement is Still the Law in Florida

Strict Products Liability Restored: The Florida Supreme Court Definitively Rules that the Second Restatement is Still the Law in Florida

Strict Products Liability Restored: The Florida Supreme Court Definitively Rules that the Second Restatement is Still the Law in Florida Will Ourand Newsome Melton, P.A. Florida consumers won a major victory when the Florida Supreme Court adopted the Second Restatement’s doctrine of strict products liability in 1976.  This victory was in peril over the last […]

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Lessons Learned: Vehicle Inspections in Product Liability Cases

Lessons Learned: Vehicle Inspections in Product Liability Cases

After litigating automotive product liability cases for almost 25 years, I’ve learned more than a few lessons the hard way. One of the hard lessons I learned early on was the way NOT to handle vehicle inspections. In any vehicle product liability case one of the first steps is to preserve the subject vehicle and […]

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BREAKING NEWS: New Products Liability Florida Jury Instructions

BREAKING NEWS: New Products Liability Florida Jury Instructions

Yesterday the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion adopting a new set of model jury instructions for products liability cases.  This opinion ends a lengthy transition which began back in 2006, when the Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases first began the process of overhauling the model instructions for all civil lawsuits.  After […]

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Button Batteries: Household Danger Hiding in Plain Sight

Button Batteries: Household Danger Hiding in Plain Sight

Every three hours, a child under the age of 18 visits an emergency room to be treated for button battery ingestion. In 2013 alone, 3,366 button battery ingestions were reported to the National Poison Data Center (NPDC), including 13 children who suffered severe injuries and 4 who died. The first description of a button battery […]

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Anthem Data Breach: What you need to know about the massive hack that may affect 80 million people

Anthem Data Breach: What you need to know about the massive hack that may affect 80 million people

What happened?

Anthem, the second largest health insurance company in the nation, announced that hackers had breached the company’s database containing private health insurance information for 80 million of its customers and employees on February 4, 2015. The company claims that the breach was first discovered on January 29, 2015, although suspicious activity had been reported two days earlier on January 27, 2015.

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Tomorrow is the Last Day to Comment on the Proposed Changes that will Eviscerate Your Ability to Conduct Discovery in Federal Lawsuits

Tomorrow is the Last Day to Comment on the Proposed Changes that will Eviscerate Your Ability to Conduct Discovery in Federal Lawsuits

The civil discovery process is one of the fundamental pillars of the modern American justice system. What makes the current process so great is the underlying goal of ensuring that each litigant has the ability to acquire the relevant evidence to prove his or her case. This is accomplished through the liberal standards which currently guide the process. Of course, this was not always the case.

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