First it was Nevada that allowed a commercial entity, in this case Google, to start testing an autonomous car on its roads, including alongside other motorists.
Soon after Florida and California passed legislation to allow the self-driving cars to be allowed on their respective roads, with lawmakers being lured by both the benefits of the technology as well as the potential to rake in billions in research dollars.
Now Michigan, home to America’s major automakers as well as numerous firms associated with the auto industry, is fast tracking its own legislation to allow testing of autonomous cars on public roads.
The Detroit News, via The Car Connection, is reporting that one of the state’s senators, Mike Kowall, has conceded that allowing the autonomous cars to be tested on Michigan roads will ensure research and development expenditures, plus any related taxes, stays in the state.
Kowall went on to explain that at least one firm, major automotive supplier Continental, was planning on moving its autonomous car research to Nevada, where it was recently granted one of the state’s licenses for autonomous cars.
Like the laws set up in other states that permit testing of self-driving cars, the Michigan laws would require a driver to be in the driver's seat at all times during testing to take over in the case of an emergency.
As for the technology itself, which relies on an array of sensors along with detailed maps to help guide the vehicles, we’ll see the first example offered on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class due out later this year. The Mercedes system will only be able to drive in traffic and on highways autonomously.
According to Google, the capability for a fully autonomous car could be reached within the decade, though holding up any launch is a multitude of issues ranging from the reliability of the technology to legal issues.
Note, Michigan is already home to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s extensive ‘Car 2 Car’ research program, dubbed the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment Program.
The aim of the program is to test cars which, by communicating with their surroundings, are able to prevent crashes by detecting them before they happen and either warning their drivers or autonomously taking action such as braking or steering out of danger.
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