Gov. Scott tries driverless car in Tampa

Tampa, Florida -- An historic sight is rolling down the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway right now. For the first time, a self-driving car is being tested in Tampa Bay.

The upper level of the Selmon -- the Reversible Express Lanes -- will be closed off until 3:00 this afternoon as Audi works on its car that can take over and do the most boring driving for you.

This technology that's going to eventually save thousands of lives and create thousands of high-tech jobs hit the road for the first time here in a testing session on Sunday and Monday.

Governor Rick Scott, fresh from his test-drive -- or is it a test-ride? -- said Audi's prototype driverless car impressed nonstop.

"It was a great ride," Scott said. "It's really interesting the way it starts and stops on its own. And when a car pulled in front of us, it immediately slowed down."

From the passenger seat, the governor watched as the driver went hands-off at up to 40 miles an hour using what Audi calls "Traffic Jam Pilot" technology.

The driver has to be ready to take back over with ten seconds' notice and any texting or movie watching must be done using the car's own electronics, so the distractions can disappear if the driver needs to pay attention. If the driver isn't alert, the car puts on flashers and brings itself to a safe stop.

On the Selmon, the sedan handled a simulated traffic jam by using 22 on-board sensors to read the road.

A 3-D camera in the windshield, a laser scanner in the grille, and radar that replaces the fog lights all combined to give the computer a 3-D picture of the road ahead.

"Some will see this simply as a special feature on a car. But I will tell you, it is a cure to a disease that is the leading cause of preventable deaths for teenagers," said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. "It's going to cure the disease, it's going to help so many thousands of people around this state, around this country, and around this world."

Audi is amped to work in Florida. We're one of only three states so far to approve automated cars on the road. And the Selmon is one of just 10 spots in America certified for tests like this.

"We see Florida as leading the way in paving the road toward the deployment of this innovative safety feature," said Anna Schneider, one of Audi of America's top executives.

Florida's leadership is why Audi is in Tampa Bay, not somewhere else -- and why Gov. Scott took Monday's first hands-free ride.


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