Pinellas' Jeff Brandes named Chair of Senate Transportation Committee; Google Car coming soon?

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Will driverless cars be on the road sooner than first imagined?

That is a possibility now that freshman Senator Jeff Brandes, who sponsored legislation paving the way for the Google Car and other driverless cars to be operated and tested on Florida roads, is now chairman of the Florida Senate’s Committee on Transportation.

The assignment is a plum one for Brandes, whose high-profile bid for the Senate was backed by Senate President Don Gaetz. Chairing the Transportation Committee gives Brandes oversight over a broad swath of statewide policy, including road building and seaport development.

Brandes brings to his chairmanship experience as a member of the House subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations. “As the sponsor of last year’s comprehensive transportation package, Senator Brandes has been a great champion for advancing Florida’s port infrastructure to attract more international trade and create jobs,” said Doug Wheeler, president of Florida Ports Council. “His business experience gives him unique insight into the importance of infrastructure to Florida’s ability to compete.”

“I am excited and honored to be selected by President Gaetz to chair this very important committee,” said Brandes. “Our goal as legislators must be to make Florida’s infrastructure — whether that be highways, roads, aviation,  seaports, etc., — extremely competitive in the global economy.”

According to Creative Loafing’s Mitch Perry, Brandes is also interested in discussions about  synchronizing traffic lights and toll issues.

As for Google Car’s prospects, broad public use is still ten to fifteen years away, but Brandes said looking at ways to innovate the state’s transportation system is critical. “At this juncture,” Brandes said, “all options are on the table. The future is now.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.