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Report: Autonomous Vehicle Testing Bill Passes Michigan Legislature

Almost unanimously approved in both chambers of the Michigan state legislature, two bills permitting the testing of autonomous cars on the state’s roads now await Governor Rick Snyder’s signature.While there is of course an almost innumerable host of safety, privacy, and infrastructure concerns to address before your car can drive itself to work while you daydream munching on a scone, Michigan has set the groundwork to make autonomous cars more than a pipe dream.

According to The Detroit News, Snyder is expected to approve the measure, having advocated for Michigan to join the ranks with Nevada, California, and Florida — states which have already ratified autonomous car testing on public roads.

Both automotive manufacturers and independent research companies like Google would be allowed to conduct testing. All testing would need to take place with a driver present behind the wheel in the event of an emergency, and with a special license plate on the car.

Government officials and manufacturers alike hope that autonomous cars can help prevent injury and death as a result of auto accidents, while also saving on infrastructure meant to compensate for human error, such as guard rails and rumble strips.

Manufacturers such as Tesla, Volvo, and Ford have already announced plans to develop, test, and sell autonomous cars over the next ten-to-fifteen years. Ford recently announced that it is working on a prototype Ford Fusion Hybrid that will be part of an autonomous-car research initiative in collaboration with State Farm and the University of Michigan. Nissan plans to sell a self-driving car by 2020, and Volvo says it will test 100 semi-autonomous vehicles in Sweden by 2017.

The Ann Arbor-based Mobility Transformation Center, operated by the University of Michigan along with government and industry officials, hopes to have the first city-wide fleet of networked autonomous cars by 2021. Ann Arbor has already hosted a 3,000-vehicle study over the course of fifteen months, which is focused on how connected cars communicate to prevent accidents.

“We want to demonstrate fully driverless vehicles operating within the whole infrastructure of the city within an eight-year timeline and to show that these can be safe, effective and commercially successful,” Director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute Peter Sweatman told The Detroit News.

Having named autonomous vehicle technology our 2014 Technology of the Year, we’re thrilled that Automobile’s home of Ann Arbor is host to advancing research in the field and that the Michigan government is on board. Here’s to hoping we can get our hands on one soon.

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