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With new bills and initiatives, Michigan seeks to be hub of driverless-vehicle activity

by Laura Tomaka ~ September 2016 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Using a site where B-24 bombers were made during World War II in a factory built by Henry Ford, Michigan hopes to build on its heritage as a hub of automotive manufacturing and innovation and become the world’s leader in autonomous vehicle technology.
In July, citing the creation of more and better jobs in the state’s thriving automotive industry, Gov. Rick Snyder announced the approval of $17 million in startup funds for the creation of the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti.
The facility at the former Willow Run site will be a public-private venture focused on testing, verification and self-certification of connected and automated vehicles and other mobility technologies. The center is a joint initiative among the state (working through the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation), the University of Michigan, business leaders and Ann Arbor SPARKS.
In addition, the Toyota Research Institute in Michigan announced that it will commit $22 million to the university’s Mobility Transformation Center over the next four years to advance research and development on artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous driving.
That center’s mission is to collaborate with industry and government to accelerate development of voluntary standards for automated vehicles. Meanwhile, a legislative package (SB 995-998) now making its way through the state Senate would authorize the American Center for Mobility, while also making statutory changes to ensure that Michigan can be at the forefront of research and development.
“Autonomous vehicle technology continues to develop, but current law is becoming outdated as technology advances,” says Sen. Horn, chair of the Economic Development and International Investment Committee. (He also serves as co-chair of the Midwestern Legislative Conference Economic Development Committee.)
“In order to compete, Michigan must evolve.”
The four Senate bills specify that companies will be able to operate driverless vehicles on public roads provided that an operator is able to supervise and control the vehicle. The legislation also sets standards for these cars and requirements that crash data for fleets of autonomous vehicles be collected. That information would then be used to improve technologies and ensure consumer safety.
The legislative package received committee approval in August.
“Data shows that more than 90 percent of auto accidents are caused [by] human error,” Horn says. “And if we can remain integral in the development of technology to reduce these errors, I think it will be a great move for our state.”


Article written by Laura Tomaka, CSG Midwest staff liaison for the Midwestern Legislative Conference Economic Development Committee.