Michigan became the first state to pass comprehensive self-driving legislation on Dec. 9, when Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a package of bills permitting authorized cars to operate on public roads without a driver or steering wheel, the governor has announced.
“Michigan put the world on wheels and now we are leading the way in transforming the auto industry,” Snyder said. “We are becoming the mobility industry, shaped around technology that makes us more aware and safer as we’re driving. By recognizing that and aligning our state’s policies as new technology is developed, we will continue as the leader the rest of the world sees as its biggest competition.”
The legislative package comprised four separate bills. Senate Bill 995, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kowall, allows operation of self-driving vehicles on Michigan roads. Previously, only manufacturer testing — with tighter restrictions — was permitted. The bill also permits automated vehicle platoons, in which vehicles travel together at electronically coordinated speeds, and authorizes on-demand self-driving vehicle networks.
Additionally, SB 995 creates the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, which as part of the state Department of Transportation will make recommendations on statewide policy. The goal is to ensure that regulation of autonomous vehicles keeps pace with technology advancements and doesn’t impede progress.
Senate Bill 996, also sponsored by Kowall, establishes guidelines for the operation of ride-hailing/on-demand vehicle services that use autonomous cars. Senate Bill 997, sponsored by Sen. Rebekah Warren, helps formally establish the American Center for Mobility. Last month, construction of the center began at Willow Run in Ypsilanti Township. The center will specialize in connected and autonomous vehicle testing, education, and product development.
Senate Bill 998, sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn, exempts mechanics and repair facilities from product liability lawsuits when autonomous vehicle repairs are performed according to manufacturer specifications.
All four bills drew bipartisan support in the state Senate and House of Representatives.