In what is being promoted as the first state to “develop comprehensive regulations” covering autonomous vehicles, the governor of Michigan has signed legislation into law that establishes policies for the testing, use and eventual sale of autonomous vehicles related technologies. (See Controversial Federal Guidelines for Autonomous Vehicles Out)
The new Michigan law allows:
- Testing of vehicles without steering wheels, pedals or needed human control;
- Automotive and technology companies to operate self-driving vehicle ride-sharing services; and
- Self-driving vehicles to be sold for public use once the technology has been tested and certified. (What “Certified” means remains to be seen.)
The law establishes the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, as part of the Michigan Department of Transportation, that will recommend policies to set industry standards. It also will regulate connected vehicle networks and how traffic data, such as vehicle crashes, will be collected and shared.
Lobbyists from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Ford Motor, General Motors, Toyota Motor, and Google, as well as ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft had a large say in the regulations.
Notably absent from the regulations is the insurance industry, and how product liability issues will be handled. Michigan is currently burdened with a ruinously expensive, unfair uninsured motorist law that makes lawyers rich and protects insurance companies at the expense of people with insurance. No public hearings are held on how the rates are set, or what the insurance company reserves are. It’s all done behind closed doors.
During 2015, 35,092 people died in U.S. traffic crashes and 2.4 million people were injured. DOT says 94% of crashes are caused in some way by human choice or error. Automation in vehicles might prevent many of the crashes that are caused by unsafe driving, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives each year.