Florida Looks to be the Next State to Incorporate AV Tech

July 24th, 2019 by

After fifty years, the state’s government and industry leaders have fused around another breakthrough technology that will be stationed closer to home. Elected officials and executives have solicited to make Florida a hotbed when it comes to the development of the self-driving technology, a location which is as synonymous with next-generation transportation as Silicon Valley or Detroit. Those efforts, underway for years, has reached a crescendo in the recent months.

Starsky Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup, last month tested a self-driving truck with no human aboard in everyday traffic, and it used a 9.5-mile stretch of the Florida Turnpike to conduct it. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation in June that clarified definitions around automated-vehicle technology. It is ensuring an industry-friendly foundation for testing and deployments.

Orlando hosted its sixth annual Automated Vehicles Symposium on July 15th-18th, which is a convention that brings together the top industry leaders, academic researchers, and government officials. The conference customarily has been one of the key venues for discussions of emerging autonomous technology and the implications of deployments. It has been in San Francisco for the past four years.

Organizers have said one reason for the switch was that California’s regulation prohibited some of the driverless technology that companies wanted to exhibit on public streets. The conference, which happened in Orlando, represented Florida’s growing importance in the self-driving world. “It’s the third-largest state, it’s a state with no snow, it’s relatively flat, we have a strong public-university system, so Florida checks a lot of boxes,” says Jeff Brandes, a state senator from the Tampa Bay area.

Branders has co-sponsored House Bill 311, which is “the legislation that cemented the state’s friendly posture toward testing and sets the stage for insurance companies to be a third-party validator of self-driving competence,” according to autonews.com. If you can test in Miami, you can develop some street credibility. Ford Motor Company plans to start a commercial delivery business in Miami sometime in the future underpinned by the self-driving technology.

Developing the self-driving system for the Ford Company is Argo Al, which has been testing in Miami, and plans to deploy it sometime in 2021 commercially. A self-driving startup Voyage is testing its autonomous shuttles in The Villages, which is a retirement community in Florida that provides both a customer base that often has mobility needs and a contained environment for low-speed operations. A planned community near Southeast Orlando, Lake Nona, the operator Beep will start self-driving shuttle services soon, and the CEO Joe Moye says approximately 20 vehicles will be operating over the next 12 to 18 months.

SunTrax, a 475-acre connected- and autonomous-vehicle test-bed between Orlando and Tampa is set to open this summer. Florida’s hold on the automated driving is at least, somewhat, the brainchild of Brandes, who found himself captivated with the self-driving cars after a TED Talk which featured computer scientist Sebastian Thrun when the Google self-driving car project was beginning. “Artificial intelligence is the new electricity, and I’ve gravitated toward that concept,” Brandes says. 

“You couple that with what Uber has done in the mobile-app and ride-sharing space, and with electrification, and you see these trends converging. … It’s exciting to identify that early and kind of angel-invest as a policymaker.” An economic base which includes defense contractors can provide a source of talent, as does the University of Central Florida (UCF). UCF boasts a Mixed Emerging Technology Integration Lab that manages simulation research and training for the military, and the College of Optics and Photonics does as well.

The College of Optics and Photonics has enticed the likes of companies such as Luminar, which is a lidar startup. Luminar has set up its offices and the first manufacturing operation near the Central Florida campus in Orlando. Luminar’s existence in Orlando is helping business leaders elsewhere recognize that there’s more to Orlando than Mickey Mouse and tourism.

For any of these used vehicles, or for more makes available, visit driversautomart.com or visit 5355 S University Dr. Davie, Florida 33328. It’s open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and on Sundays 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Photo Credit: avtechnology.in


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