The Michigan legislature may soon consider a proposal that would allow the state to match the freewheeling driverless vehicle laws just enacted by Florida.
Michigan now allows the testing of autonomous cars on its roads under certain conditions by certain operators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Michigan’s state Sen. Mike Kowall plans to introduce a bill that would jettison the testing requirement for the operation of driverless vehicles on the state’s roads, according to a report from Crain’s Detroit Business.
In April Florida enacted a law that gives those with a driver’s license the right to operate an autonomous vehicle on its roads without any testing requirement.
The potential Florida/Michigan match-up is the latest in the competition between the states for autonomous driving bragging rights and research dollars. States from Massachusetts to California are opening driverless test tracks or considering loosening rules for firms seeking to develop the technology in their borders.
Kowall, a Republican from White Lake and the Senate’s Majority Floor Leader, has already introduced a bill that would make it a felony to intentionally damage and/or take control of the computer system of a motor vehicle.
And in March the Michigan Senate passed a Kowall resolution calling for the adoption of intelligent transportation system technology throughout Michigan, and urged further testing of autonomous and connected vehicles.
Kowall told Crain’s he plans to introduce a series of bills on driverless vehicles that would discard the rules requiring testing, set insurance liability requirements for connected vehicle equipment manufacturers, and officially name the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Mich., a national center for the study of autonomous and connected vehicle technology.
FLORIDA SUN SHINES ON DRIVERLESS CARS
Other states aren’t standing idly by, nor are they waiting for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to release its state policy guidelines on driverless vehicles this summer.
Florida roared ahead when it allowed the operation of autonomous vehicles on its roads by someone with a valid driver’s license (See “Florida Takes Brakes Off Driverless Tech”).
That law removes a previous testing requirement, and it allows the ‘driver’ to operate the vehicle even if she is not physically in the vehicle.
Tennessee last week enacted a bill allowing for the live testing of driverless vehicles that have been certified by the state, as long as a driver is present in the vehicle that has certain safety equipment installed. The law also creates a per-mile tax structure for the vehicles.
Tennessee calls itself the leading state for automotive manufacturing with GM, Nissan, Volkswagen, parts supplier Denso, and many others operating plants there.
Massachusetts is reportedly preparing to allow the testing of autonomous vehicles at a 60-acre site on the decommissioned Devens military base about an hour from Boston (“Driverless Testing in Massachusetts ‘in a Few Weeks’”).
Devens would be convenient for autonomous researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Volpe Transportation Systems Center.
That could compete with Michigan’s 335-acre American Center for Mobility that could become a big brother to Ann Arbor’s 32-acre Mcity autonomous vehicle test site that opened in 2015.
Michigan and Florida, along with California, Nevada and the District of Columbia, have enacted legislation allowing for the operation of driverless vehicles on their roads.
GOLDEN STATE SEES GOLD IN DRIVERLESS TECH
California has approved 12 firms to conduct driverless testing. Many of the global auto OEMs and Tier 1 auto suppliers have operations in Silicon Valley.
The California General Assembly this month moved on several proposals that would reduce the authority of the state Department of Motor Vehicles over autonomous vehicles.
Some legislators have argued the DMV is hindering the development of the technology with unnecessary regulations (See “California Pols to DMV: Relax Draft Driverless Regs”).
Last week a bill that would require the DMV to hold public hearings on the NHTSA guidelines was approved by a 76 to 0 margin. Sponsor Assemblywoman Ling Ling Change has made no secret that she believes the DMV needs to get out of the way.
And the Transportation Committee approved AB 2862 that would allow the testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver, steering wheel, and brake and accelerator pedals. Autonomous testing leader Google had a hissy fit when the DMV in December released draft rules requiring such equipment.
The governors of Arizona and Virginia last year allowed for greater testing on their roads, while North Dakota and Utah have called for further research on autonomous vehicles.