No Driver? No Problem: Michigan Just Legalized Autonomous Cars on Public Roads

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
no driver no problem michigan just legalized autonomous cars on public roads

Vehicles without steering wheels, brake pedals, or even drivers are now allowed to operate on public roads in Michigan.

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of auto industry-backed legislation that permits automakers and technology companies to develop, test and even sell autonomous vehicles in the Mitten State. The policy even enables autonomous ride-hailing services, provided that the vehicles have undergone certification.

Michigan is now the wild frontier for self-aware cars.

“By establishing guidelines and standards for self-driving vehicles, we’re continuing that tradition of excellence in a way that protects the public’s safety while at the same time allows the mobility industry to grow without overly burdensome regulations,” Snyder said in a statement today.

Effective regulation has been a slippery fish, however. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlined a 15-point voluntary plan for automakers in September that met with fairly mixed feedback. One of the biggest criticisms being that the NHTSA’s guidelines aren’t specific enough and that the plan’s voluntary nature makes it impossible to enforce.

The new laws have garnered approval from General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, Google, Uber, and Lyft.

“The enactment of this legislation affords Michigan the opportunity to be at the forefront of the next major transition in the automotive industry and should serve as a model for other states,” GM said in a statement.

As a “model” state, Michigan’s legislation lets companies use their technology much more liberally. California has also passed passed regulations that only allows for vehicle testing and requires a human to be present in the driver’s seat at all times. Michigan State officials feel the more relaxed regulations should encourage automakers to stay, making it an industry leader.

“We view this legislation as Michigan getting government out of the way of technology and letting it be deployed when it’s ready, but at the same time in a manner that keeps people accountable for keeping people safe on roads,” Michigan Department of Transportation director Kirk Steudle told Forbes. “There’s 100 years of history of automobile companies in Michigan putting test vehicles on the road and putting safe vehicles out.”

Not everyone in the auto industry is happy, however. Uber has taken issue with the contents of one of the bills (SB 996), which allows only motor vehicle manufacturers to participate in an initiative that permits a deployment of on-demand self-driving taxis.

“We oppose SB 996 (the ‘SAVE Act’) and its anti-tech protectionist elements, but SB 995 helps resolve many of those issues, and we appreciate the state enacting those improvements,” an Uber spokeswoman said Friday. “Ultimately, we think it is early in the life of this technology to prescribe state laws, and while these bills may work for Michigan, we do not think they are something other states should use as a model.”

Early or not, it’s just a matter of time before some poor Michigander is terrified by the sight of an empty automobile cruising down the highway in the middle of the night.

[Source: Mlive] [Image: Michigan.gov]

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  • Buickman Buickman on Dec 10, 2016

    this may well add up to a larger problem than a combination of Flint water and GM ignitions. Snyder's legacy is already tarnished, this destroys it. just hope you or your family aren't the sacrificial lambs. this genie goes back in the bottle once Geoffrey, Sam, and Lee move past chops licking and sink their teeth into some prime meat.

  • Jimmyy Jimmyy on Dec 12, 2016

    Now, that is scary. It is well known most Detroit vehicles suffer from quality problems. Up till this point, the quality problems mostly cost the owner excessive repair money. Going forward, Detroit quality problems will result in runaway vehicles killing and maiming people. One good quality problem in the software or sensors will put Detroit out of business. Detroit will be unable to pay all the billions in lawsuits.

    • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Dec 12, 2016

      Yeah because nobody else has quality glitches other than Ford and Gm right? I have a nice big bridge to sell you.

  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys for that money, it had better be built by people listening to ABBA
  • Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.
  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
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