Michigan looks to lead on regulation of autonomous vehicles

LANSING — In 2013, Michigan legislators adopted the state’s first laws for driverless vehicles, allowing them to share the road with live motorists only while being tested.

That legislation helped Michigan become an early leader in the race to build a self-driving car, said Mike Kowall, a state senator from Oakland County who sponsored the bills.

But for Michigan to win — especially against the tech giants of Silicon Valley, which are developing their own prototypes — he said the state also needs to lead by regulation, before a patchwork of rules crops up across state lines.

Kowall, R-White Lake Township, said he plans to introduce a bill package in the Senate that would allow autonomous vehicles on Michigan roads for any reason, not just during testing.

A set of bills introduced last week would make it illegal to hack into connected vehicle systems. The bills would make that a felony that could land an offender in prison for life. The rest of the package, which Kowall said is expected to follow soon, would establish liability insurance requirements for connected equipment manufacturers in case their products malfunction, and formally authorize use of the former General Motors Co. powertrain plant at Willow Run Airport near Ypsilanti for the new American Center for Mobility project.

“Michigan is the home of the automobile,” said Kowall, who hopes Michigan’s standards could be incorporated into federal rules. “If our guys are saying, ‘Yep, that’s going to work,’ that’s the same thing they’re going to be telling the feds.”

“This is all brand-new territory that we’re delving into.”

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Mon, 05/02/2016 - 12:52pm
Really?? Spending time and energy on something that is still conceptual, just shows how out of touch and egocentric this current state government is. "The risk for states wanting to legislate an industry that is still largely conceptual is a lack of uniformity, said Jennifer Dukarski, an attorney with the connected car and autonomous vehicles team for the Butzel Long law firm in Ann Arbor." Michigan is dealing with crisis after crisis (Flint, Detroit bankruptcy, roads, infrastructure) and yet Kowall wants to be first in legislating an industry that is strictly conceptual. These people live in their own little world!! UNBELIEVABLE and SAD
Mon, 05/02/2016 - 1:04pm
I find it refreshing that our legislators are thinking ahead. some of this may be conceptual, but at the rate technology changes, it won't be for long. Good legislation takes a long time to put in place, and we definitely don't want the State to lag on this front. While there are indeed, many crises for our government to attend to, we wouldn't want them to ignore the future.
Tue, 05/03/2016 - 9:38am
try the car on a road with pothole! need to see results in rain, snow at night...with children .dogs.etc..who is paying the insurance ?
sam melvin
Tue, 05/03/2016 - 9:42am
next thing you know we have self driving busses..A-rail. Monorail. trains.hhhmmm.Maybe even .planes that fly
Tue, 05/03/2016 - 12:48pm
Reminds me of a leadership question I have heard of late. "Leadership from behind"