Innovative ridesharing companies are quickly becoming a premier option for consumers across the country – and Florida is right on board. Last year, the state Legislature joined the majority of other states in supporting ridesharing by allowing this pioneering transportation option to expand its services under a uniform statewide set of standards. It turns out that was only the beginning of the good news for those of us who want to see our state continue to support innovation.

Julio Fuentes

One excellent example is with autonomous vehicles. Once the stuff of science fiction, driverless cars are already becoming a meaningful part of our transportation future. Following Washington’s adoption of a basic federal framework for regulation of autonomous vehicles, Florida lawmakers have introduced SB 717 and HB 353, demonstrating their support of self-driving technology. This progressive legislation would update Florida’s transportation code to advance self-driving technology by declaring that a human is not required to be present in an autonomous vehicle. It may not be too long before your Lyft or Uber ride doesn’t include a driver at all!

Another piece of forward-thinking legislation under consideration would establish a Smart City Grant Program, providing state matching funds for innovative local transportation projects. Under this legislation, technology companies would be able to provide Florida with additional jobs, modern enhancements, and a stronger economy.

We know Florida will continue to grow, mostly in our cities and suburbs, and every year we add more and more cars to the road. In the last decade and a half alone, Florida has added 6.8 million more registered vehicles – an astounding 49 percent increase. The time and fuel we waste sitting in traffic is not sustainable, and that’s why the business community is so enthusiastic about ridesharing, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations.

As more and more passengers call for alternative transportation options, ridesharing has become an essential part of transit in cities around Florida and across the country. It offers numerous possibilities for improving transportation, from reducing traffic to providing disabled consumers with convenient ways to get from place to place.

Florida’s lawmakers would serve their constituents well by continuing to embrace innovation. We should all encourage them to support legislation that will help those spearheading our state’s drive into the future.

Julio Fuentes is president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC), which includes more than 30 chapters supporting more than 80,000 minority-owned businesses.

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