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Snyder signs new Mich. self-driving vehicles law

Associated Press • Dec 11, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed legislation that aims to put Michigan in the driver's seat for autonomous technology, testing and deployment for self-driving cars. Proponents say the laws are important for the state's economic development and talent retention.

Snyder chose the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn to sign the significant package of bills that will allow the public to buy and use fully self-driving cars when they are available. The laws also would allow ride-sharing services without drivers to be operated by auto manufacturers or by ride-hailing services such as Lyft or Uber.

"I'm excited to sign this bill," Snyder said. "In my heart I view this as a portal opening for safety, for opportunity for more economic success. We should be proud we're leading the world, right here in Michigan."

The legislation updates a 2013 law that has allowed testing of autonomous vehicles in Michigan, though with a driver behind the wheel.

Snyder thanked lawmakers, government officials and GM and Ford for partnering to get the legislation passed.

"This bill will help foster growth in Michigan's connected and automated vehicle industry," said Bill Chapin, president of the Automotive Hall of Fame.

The three-bill package landed on Snyder's desk late last month after the bills went through the House and Senate this fall with near unanimous support.

Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, who introduced Senate Bill 995, said autonomous and connected vehicles could have helped to avoid the Thursday pileup on Interstate 96 that left three dead.

He said the legislation signed into law Friday will allow automakers, engineers and researchers to do what they do best. "We're getting government out of the way, we're letting industry grow at its own rate," Kowall said.

Ford has said it plans to deploy a fully autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals in 2021 for ride-sharing or ride-hailing purposes. It wants to sell 100,000 or more a year of the vehicles. GM also is working with partner Lyft Inc. to develop a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs that it would use for ride-hailing. It hopes to test those within a couple of years on public roadways.

Michigan is one of eight states along with Washington, D.C., that have laws allowing testing of autonomous cars, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California, Florida and Nevada have laws that allow for the "operation" beyond testing. Arizona and Massachusetts' governors signed executive orders related to self-driving vehicles.

The bills were amended to allow tech companies such as Google Inc. to test and ultimately operate self-driving vehicles without drivers on state roadways.

The Michigan law differs and is separate from autonomous car guidelines released in September by federal officials. The Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles are considered best practices for safe design, development and testing of automated vehicles before they go on sale or operate on public roadways.

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