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New rules for driverless cars motoring through the Michigan Legislature

Aug 31, 2016

Michigan is edging closer to clearing the road for driverless cars.

A state Senate committee approved a package of four bills that loosen existing rules for autonomous vehicles. The state created rules for driverless cars just a few years ago. But evolving technology has apparently made those rules “obsolete.”

“The laws we put on the books before are now antiquated,” says Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, Senate majority floor leader. “We’re at a point where if we don’t catch up, industry’s going to be waiting for us.  And if they have to wait, they are going to go someplace else.”

Pamela Fletcher is General Motors’ Executive Chief Engineer of Electric Vehicles. She testified in support of the changes at the committee hearing in Saginaw.

“We think it really is groundbreaking in terms of modeling,” Fletcher said after the hearing. “Modeling what other states can do to bring this kind of development and this kind of deployment very quickly into the state.”

One state official says Michigan is in a “wrestling match” with other states, especially California, over which will be the future home of the “mobility industry.”

Automakers have been testing autonomous vehicles in Michigan for years. But development and testing is also taking place in other states, including California and Arizona. Automakers say Michigan’s unique mix of weather would make its highways, city streets and gravel roads ideal for testing autonomous tech. 

Ford has announced plans to market a driverless vehicle to ride-sharing companies by 2021. General Motors is also developing vehicles its executives expect will soon be available. 

The driverless car bills may be on the legislative fast track this fall.

Sen. Kowall says the Republican caucus will take up the bills when the Legislature returns to work next week and then quickly to the senate floor for consideration.

He says the state House should take up the four bill package and hopefully send it on to the governor.