By on September 8, 2016


If the House approves it, Michigan will become the first state to allow autonomous vehicles to drive on certain public roads, at any time, for any purpose.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the state Senate has unanimously approved four bills aimed at making Michigan the self-driving mecca of the U.S., giving consent for autonomous vehicles to operate on 122 miles of public roads, not just on closed courses during pilot projects.

After the 36-0 vote in the Senate, the bills move to the House for consideration. Automakers and tech developers have their fingers crossed, as they plan to turn the state into a proving ground for what they hope is the future of driving.

Lawmakers seem to share the same view. Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), speaking to the Detroit Free Press, compared the legislation and burgeoning industry to the Cold War-era space race.

Naturally, the legislation is worded to protect the state’s automakers. Senate Bills 995 and 996 allow “on-demand automated motor vehicle networks,” but only if it involves a recognized automaker. That leaves Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors in the clear, but keeps the likes of Google, Apple and other players out.

Ford and GM have their own autonomous vehicle operations in Michigan, while FCA has partnered with Google on a fleet of 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans. Top Japanese automakers have collaborated with Ford and GM on the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center and its Mcity testing facility.

The legislation, if passed by the House, would benefit the fledgling American Center for Mobility and its goal of turning the Willow Run airport into a self-driving tech hub.

On the safety front, one of the bills targets hackers, making it clear that anyone caught accessing or tampering with a self-driving vehicle’s electronic control systems will face serious consequences, including the potential for life in prison.

[Image: Volvo]

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16 Comments on “Michigan’s Self-Driving Dream Is Now Just a Vote Away...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…but only if it involves a recognized automaker”

    Including Tesla? Oh, the irony.

    • 0 avatar

      Another Tesla autopilot crash. This time the driver was killed and the batteries burst into a spectacular fire.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX


        The car was going 96 mph. Autopilot won’t let you do that. Case closed.

        FWIW: There is no evidence of a ‘spectacular fire’ in the aftermath video or photos. Part of the battery caught on fire because it split apart after crashing at 96 mph. There would have been nothing left of a gasoline-powered car.

    • 0 avatar

      Surefire way to guarantee the next Tesla, nor any other automaker, won’t be started in Michigan. Talk about a bunch of captive idiots. Legislation like this is SO counterproductive, even those that ostensibly do benefit, only do so in the short term, as it destroys any possibility of the forming of the kind of ecosystem from which cutting edge is by far the most likely to emerge.

      Over any horizon longer than that covering the GM CEO’s next year end bonus, GM would be much better off if Michigan became the Silicon Valley of emerging cars, than if it remains the Detroit of anything. But hey, micromanagement by political hacks, incumbent dinosaur corporations and union yahoos has worked so wonderfully for Michigan so far…….

  • avatar

    I look forward to sharing the road with these. I would assume that the computer wants to avoid any hazardous situations, like following too close. I would also assume that the code will be courteous to other drivers-like allowing merging when a turn signal is on.

    So, in my small mind, it will be like a horde of scared to be on the road drivers that I can jockey with to my delight and pass at will. I assume they won’t be going the speed limit in the left lane while never passing anyone.

    I live in MI and feel it is my right to drive 9 over the posted freeway limit. I also know that after a 6″ snowfall, we expect to be able to drive to work at normal speeds the next morning.

  • avatar

    How come no one ever proposes just making the autonomous cars visually distinctive and immediately identifiable? For example, plaid paint required, or a big red whirling light on top, or something like that.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know, maybe because they don’t want human drivers (over)reacting to them? Just think of how some drivers react when they see a police car. rapid changes in speed (got to get down to 10 under the limit so I don’t get a ticket!) and so on.

  • avatar

    They should be the only cars allowed on the road for the first day of deer season.

  • avatar

    bill could backfire

  • avatar
    V-Strom rider

    I read somewhere that autonomous vehicles have a lot of trouble merging onto busy freeways and sometimes come to a complete halt at the end of the ramp, waiting for a big gap. Don’t know if this is actual experience or someone’s speculation but this could be interesting! Also the “playing chicken” possibilities sound like fun – until someone gets hurt, of course.

    • 0 avatar

      sheesh, I know of plenty of *people* who stop at the bottom of on-ramps. usually old people.

      but yeah, I’d wager highway merging is going to be one of the tougher nuts to crack. V2V communication would help that situation greatly.

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