Michigan looks to become autonomous vehicle mecca

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed a package of four bills (S.B. 995-998) intended to signal the state’s commitment to the autonomous future, including by opening up 122,000 miles of roadway for autonomous vehicle testing in all kinds of conditions, allowing fleets of autonomous commercial trucks to travel together at a set speed and allowing the driverless vehicles of the future to travel on nearly every roadway in the state.

Michigan first passed legislation in 2013 to allow partially autonomous vehicles to operate on specific stretches of road, but only with a driver at the wheel. This new package should put Michigan ahead of the eight other states that currently have enacted legislation for self-driving cars, as well as a few others, like Arizona and Massachusetts, that have regulated the technology via executive order.

The package also grants legal authority for an AV testing and design center, creates a Michigan Council of Future Mobility and will permit networks of driverless cars to pick up passengers on demand.

Separately, the University of Michigan is readying a 32-acre site at its North Campus in Ann Arbor to become the Mobility Transformation Center, nicknamed Mcity. As the university describes it:

Mcity simulates the broad range of complexities vehicles encounter in urban and suburban environments. It includes approximately five lane-miles of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, benches, simulated buildings, street lights, and obstacles such as construction barriers.

California has been a locus of AV testing, but Michigan thinks its four-season climate and history as home to the Big Three auto manufacturers will generate a compelling case.  The Michigan Department of Transportation, engaged at every level in the new plans, is already collecting digital information for autonomous snowplows of the near future.


Image by Karsten Neglia

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