News Stories

Autonomous vehicles are one part of Jacksonville’s transportation plan

By A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

The future of Jacksonville’s downtown is going to include autonomous vehicle technology.

To that end, Gov. Ron DeSantis signing HB 311 on Thursday was a boon for the city, asserted the spokesman for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

“The JTA applauds Gov. DeSantis, FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault, Rep. Jason Fischer, Sen. Jeff Brandes and the Florida Legislature for their commitment to making Florida a national leader in transportation innovation.

“This bill further advances Florida as a state that welcomes innovators and entrepreneurs, and encourages autonomous vehicle projects such as the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s Ultimate Urban Circulator,” JTA Spokesman David Cawton said Thursday.

The Ultimate Urban Circulator (U²C) will run down Bay Street, from the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center (JRTC) to the Sports Complex. Federal grants secured in February from the U.S. Department of Transportation are going to help.

“The JTA is recognized as a national leader in AV deployment, and, with the help of the $12.5 million BUILD Grant from the USDOT, the Authority will begin to implement this technology along the Bay Street Innovation Corridor in the coming years,” Cawton said.

“We believe any measure that encourages innovation and provides easier and greater access to newer and safer technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, is good for our riders, our communities, and our economy. Again, we applaud the Governor and the bill sponsors for this bold step forward in support of transportation innovation in the State of Florida,” Cawton added.

The bill (HB 311) defines autonomous vehicles as any car with hardware and software that make it capable of operating without a driver. The legislation had strong support from major players like Uber, Lyft, Google’s Waymo and General Motors. The Florida Chamber of Commerce also put its lobbying heft behind the bill.

“We here in Florida are pioneering the most exciting innovations in transportation,” said Rep. Jason Fischer, the House sponsor of the legislation.

“This bill on self-driving cars will usher in a new era of smart cities that will not only expand our economy but increase road safety and decrease traffic congestion,” Fischer added.