Michigan lets autonomous cars on roads without human driver

Michigan lets autonomous cars on roads without human driver
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs legislation that establishes comprehensive regulations for the testing, use and eventual sale of autonomous vehicle technology at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., on Friday Dec. 9, 2016. The package of bills signed into law Friday comes with few specific state regulations and leaves many decisions up to automakers and companies like Google and Uber. It also allows automakers and tech companies to run autonomous taxi services and permits test parades of self-driving tractor-trailers as long as humans are in each truck. (Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press via AP)

Companies can now test self-driving cars on Michigan public roads without a driver or steering wheel under new laws that could push the state to the forefront of autonomous vehicle development.

The package of bills signed into law Friday comes with few specific state regulations and leaves many decisions up to automakers and companies like Google and Uber.

It also allows automakers and tech companies to run autonomous taxi services and permits test parades of self-driving tractor-trailers as long as humans are in each truck. And they allow the sale of self-driving vehicles to the public once they are tested and certified, according to the state.

The bills allow testing without burdensome regulations so the industry can move forward with potential life-saving technology, said Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed the bills. "It makes Michigan a place where particularly for the auto industry it's a good place to do work," he said.

The bills give Michigan the potential to be a leader by giving the companies more autonomy than say, California, which now requires human backup drivers in case something goes awry.

Michigan lets autonomous cars on roads without human driver
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder poses for a photograph after signing legislation that establishes comprehensive regulations for the testing, use and eventual sale of autonomous vehicle technology at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., on Friday Dec. 9, 2016. The package of bills signed into law Friday comes with few specific state regulations and leaves many decisions up to automakers and companies like Google and Uber. It also allows automakers and tech companies to run autonomous taxi services and permits test parades of self-driving tractor-trailers as long as humans are in each truck. (Romain Blanquart/Detroit Free Press via AP)

Here are answers to some questions about the laws:

Q: Companies are making a lot of the decisions in putting the cars on . Why does the state think they'll be safe?

A: Michigan Transportation Director Kirk Steudle says the laws put Michigan ahead of most other states with the possible exception of Florida in specifically allowing tests without a human driver. Companies, he said, will make the decision as to when the cars are ready for that, based on more than a century of experience of testing cars on public roads. Automakers have a long history of testing cars on public roads in Michigan with few, if any, incidents, Steudle says. The cars also have to comply with federal safety standards and may have to be certified as roadworthy by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration if proposed federal guidelines are adopted. "I don't want to regulate the vehicles. There is nobody in state government that has any knowledge to be able to say that vehicle is ready to go on the road," Steudle said. If the vehicles crash, Steudle says they would be governed by Michigan's no-fault insurance laws that require each driver's insurance to pay for damage. The companies also could be sued under product liability laws, he says. The self-driving laws also allow only reputable companies such as automakers and to do tests, Steudle says. "These are responsible parties," says Snyder.

Q: Does this put the state ahead in allowing self-driving vehicles on public roads?

A: Michigan Transportation Director Kirk Steudle says the laws put Michigan ahead of most other states with the possible exception of Florida in specifically allowing tests without a human driver. Companies, he said, will make the decision as to when the cars are ready for that, based on more than a century of experience of testing cars on public roads. Steudle says yes because the laws specifically authorize use without human drivers. He also says Michigan has an advantage over Florida and warm-weather states because companies can test in snow. But Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who tracks the technology, says Florida has almost no restrictions. Other states, he said, don't expressly prohibit such testing and have agreements with individual companies to do it. Michigan's laws also make defining who is a driver ambiguous, he said. Drivers could be companies running autonomous taxi services, engineers who start autonomous vehicles, passengers who ride in the cars and the automated systems themselves, he said.

Q: Unlike California, Michigan isn't tracking autonomous car crashes. How will the state spot problems?

A: Police will investigate any crashes and presumably would report any trends to the state, which could suspend a 's manufacturer license plates and end the tests, Steudle says. He concedes that there will be crashes and probably a fatality involving . But the technology can eliminate human errors that cause 94 percent of crashes and cut the 100 highway deaths in the U.S. every day, he said. "It's a risk worth taking because the future of the technologies we know are going to help reduce those crashes and reduce those fatalities," Steudle said.


Explore further

NuTonomy to test self-driving cars in Boston

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: Michigan lets autonomous cars on roads without human driver (2016, December 9) retrieved 18 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-12-michigan-autonomous-cars-roads-human.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
683 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Dec 10, 2016
It's going to be fun explaining to the families of early fatalities how someday we'll all benefit from these unsupervised tests of driver-less cars.

Dec 10, 2016
It's going to be fun explaining to the families of early fatalities how someday we'll all benefit from these unsupervised tests of driver-less cars.


Probably the same way Ford dealt with the Pinto explosions.

Do a cold calculation on likely total lawsuit liabilities vs. the cost to fix all the vehicles and decide they'd rather watch the odd car blow up.

Explaining why family members are dead due to ones negligence has been a trend for all human history not just driver-less cars.

Still this bill lacks some serious oversight,but then again any oversight the government pays for will just be there to make the politicians, auto makers, and oversight board a bit more rich so there was never going to be any real oversight because that can be bought off.

Dec 10, 2016
A: Police will investigate any crashes and presumably would report any trends to the state,

error

Dec 11, 2016
Well, . . why not?

Relaxing the rules worked for Flint.

Dec 12, 2016
Do a cold calculation on likely total lawsuit liabilities vs. the cost to fix all the vehicles and decide they'd rather watch the odd car blow up
What makes people think that the liability issues haven't already been thoroughly explored?

MI requires all vehicles to be insured. Insurance companies won't cover vehicles without thoroughly investigating them and determining risk. And the state is fully aware of this.

Dec 12, 2016
Companies, he said, will make the decision as to when the cars are ready for that, based on more than a century of experience of testing cars on public roads.

Um...ooookay? How exactly is that an argument for...anything related to the issue at hand? Other than maybe: "automakers have gotten a handle on not making their prototypes spontaneously explode"

There is nobody in state government that has any knowledge to be able to say that vehicle is ready to go on the road

Yup. That's why a law must be passed to say: go ahead. We don't know what we're doing so do what you want. I don't think that's a particularly intelligent approach.

The self-driving laws also allow only reputable companies such as automakers and tech companies to do tests, Steudle says. "These are responsible parties,"

Automakers? Responsible parties? Yeah. Right.

Don't get me wrong: autonomous tech is good. But this 'law' seems a blatant business-grab initiative to me.

Dec 13, 2016
Why do these d.b. politicians always surround themselves with a phalanx of people when they do things like this? Is it to prove they aren't lone imbeciles?

Dec 13, 2016
Looks like EVs are going to be more popular now.

http://money.cnn....dex.html

The Early Adopters got the tax breaks, but the advantages are just too great to dismiss them over the loss of tax credits.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more