New Michigan law prepares for autonomous future

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder visited the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, MI, which honors the automotive past, to sign a bill that aims to enable the automotive future. The law creates regulations for testing, using and selling autonomous vehicles in the state and clarifies how these vehicles will be used on public roads.

The law specifically allows vehicles that have no human controls — no steering wheel, no pedals — to be tested in Michigan. It makes clear that both automotive companies and tech companies are able to operate self-driving ridesharing vehicles. This is no surprise, given that FCA, Ford, GM, Toyota, Google, Uber and Lyft were all partners in creating this legislation. And it allows the sale of autonomous vehicles to the public once the technology has been tested and certified.

The law cedes that testing and certification to NHTSA, according to an email from the Michigan Department of Transportation. “The traditional role has been for equipment standards to be determined and tested at the national level. That seems likely to be the same for autonomous technology.”

While this does allow for the sale of certified self-driving vehicles, there are no provisions in place yet for educating the driving public or the dealerships on the safe use of these future cars. “The news accounts of the Tesla incidents have certainly impressed upon the general public and those in the industry that there is an important need to be familiar with the vehicle characteristics,” the email stated. “The Michigan legislation does not proscribe a specific manner of addressing user familiarity with the technology, but key state agencies are ready to assist the private developers of the technology in this regard.”

The law also creates the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, which will be part of MDOT. This new entity will regulate connected-vehicle networks as they arise and keep tabs on the use of traffic data generated by these networks, such as crash information.