Michigan senate passes bills supporting autonomous vehicles

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 7:06pm

Michigan's legislature is taking the next step to ensure that the state remains at the forefront of driverless car research. Last week, the Michigan Senate approved four bills looking to push forward autonomous vehicle research in the state.

The package now moves from the Republican-controlled Senate, where it has been approved, to the House. The bill will allow for testing of the cars on 122 miles of roads throughout the state. If passed, the bill will also allow for the American Center for Mobility to redevelop the Willow Run Airport for more autonomous vehicle testing and research.

“This opens everything — as long as you have everything working and you pass all the standards that we set forward,” Sen. Mike Kowall (R–White Lake), one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan is actively pushing to stay the top state for autonomous driving competing with states such as Florida, Arizona and California, also centers of development for self-driving cars. Michigan is one of only seven states that allows testing autonomous cars in a public setting.

Along with other research facilities strewn across the state, the University of Michigan has large stakes in this research as the host of Mcity: 32 acres on North Campus dedicated to testing the capabilities of driverless cars in association with the Michigan Department of Transportation.   

Mcity opened in July 2015 in collaboration with the University’s Mobility Transformation Center. The site is currently lead by corporate partners such as Ford, Toyota, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance and General Motors. It operates as a real-life setting for engineers to test and make their way toward completely autonomous cars. Engineers are currently working on a series of projects aimed at connecting cars to each other and to their environment. The new legislation has the potential to change the purpose and inner-workings of Mcity as research is moved beyond the “lab” and into a real world setting.

However, the recent legislation has also garnered opposition from tech giants like Google. Google is now contesting the recent legislation, charging that the language of the bills exclude companies such as Google that are new to making cars.

An MCity representative was unable to comment on the recent legislation.