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Michigan approves cars without drivers or steering wheels on its roads

Lucas Mearian | Dec. 12, 2016
The state also approved of platooning, or convoys of autonomous vehicles

Along with enabling fully-autonomous vehicles to use public roadways, the bills also outlined specific parameters for companies such as Google and Uber, who are developing on-demand autonomous vehicle networks.

uber self driving Ford autonomous 
An Uber autonomous car prototype in Pittsburgh.

Another bill signed into law exempts mechanics from any damages to vehicles that result from repairs, if the repairs were made in accordance with manufacturer specifications.

All safety requirements that pertain to the testing of autonomous vehicles will apply to autonomous vehicle operation, the governor's office said.

The primary bill, SB 995, also allows automated vehicle platooning, where vehicles travel together at electronically coordinated speeds. Additionally, the legislation creates the Michigan Council on Future Mobility within the state's Department of Transportation. It's designed to make future recommendations on statewide policy  "that will keep Michigan ahead of the curve on regulatory issues that could impede new development."

In addition to enabling autonomous fleet delivery tricks and on-demand ride services, one of the main benefits of fully autonomous vehicles will be that owners can summon them when needed so that they don't waste parking spaces, Schoettle said in an email to Computerworld.

"For example, driver A only needs to get to and from work, otherwise the vehicle sits in a parking lot all day. This way, it can return home to driver B for them to use throughout the day before returning to pick up driver A at 5 p.m.," Schoettle said. "As you can imagine, there are quite a variety of ways a vehicle could be shared like this."

Ford, GM and other companies developing autonomous driving technology have been using Michigan's Mcity, a 32-acre, full-scale simulated real-world urban environment where vehicles self-drive in every condition, including snow.

Michigan is also home to the largest deployment of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) electronic communications technology in its Smart Corridor. The corridor is a series of public highways -- more than 120 miles in all -- in Southeast Michigan that have more than 100 Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) transponder units. The DSRC units share traffic information with cars and trucks that have V2I and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology and alert drivers to potential problems to prevent accidents.

For example, if a V2V-enabled car makes a sudden stop in heavy fog or its stability control engages on a rain-slicked road, every V2V-enabled car around it will know almost instantantly, giving drivers time to react.

 

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