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Michigan Governor Signs AV Rules Eliminating Human Driver Requirement

Michigan hopes to regain its throne atop the automotive world with relaxing rules on the operation of autonomous vehicles on state roads.

On Friday, Dec. 9, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed S.B. 955, which authorizes the operation of autonomous vehicles on Michigan public roads. The legislation updates a 2013 law that allowed for the testing of autonomous vehicles in the state, but required a driver sit behind the wheel.

Flanked by a Model T on one side and a self-driving Ford Fusion on the other, Snyder — along with bill sponsor Sen. Mike Kowall and mobility leaders from Ford and GM — signed the bill, which he said he believes will position the state as an epicenter for automotive innovation and autonomous vehicles.

The legislation not only scraps the need for a person to physically be in the car, but also allows for automated vehicle platoons, in which connected vehicles travel together at electronically coordinated speeds, drafting behind one another to reduce wind resistance and increase fuel efficiency. SB 955 also authorizes on-demand autonomous vehicle networks.

"Michigan put the world on wheels," Snyder said, referencing Detroit's history in car manufacturing, "and now we are leading the way in transforming the auto industry.”

I signed legislation that will continue Michigan’s legacy of being the leader in automotive technology. Read More: — Governor Rick Snyder (@onetoughnerd) December 9, 2016
“We are becoming the mobility industry, shaped around technology that makes us more aware and safer as we’re driving," Snyder added. "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.”

Gov. Snyder also signed three other bills sponsored by Sen. Kowall, Sen. Rebekah Warren and Sen. Ken Horn, respectively, as part of the autonomous vehicles package:

  • SB 996 outlines specific parameters for entities that wish to offer on-demand autonomous vehicle networks to the public.
  • SB 997 recognizes the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run in statute and removes barriers to operating at the facility.
  • SB 998 exempts mechanics from any damages to vehicles that result from repairs, if the repairs were made in accordance with manufacturer specifications.
Through the signing of this bill, Michigan and Florida now are the most liberal states on laws governing driverless car technology.

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.