It’s not something from a Jules Verne novel to think that our automobiles will someday be programmed to take us to work and on vacation without us having to be behind the wheel. Legislation defining and regulating the use of “autonomous vehicles” continues to receive attention from the Legislature. Just prior to breaking for Thanksgiving, the state senate by a vote of 38-0 passed Senate Bills 169 and 663. This week the House Commerce Committee heard testimony on both bills and may send them to the full House next week.
SB 169 defines an “automated motor vehicle” as one in which automated technology has been installed, enabling it to be operated without any control or monitoring by a human operator. The bill allows the manufacturer of automated technology to operate or move an automated motor vehicle upon a street or highway solely to transport or test automated technology. The vehicle must be operated by an employee, contractor, or other person designated or authorized by the manufacturer of automated technology and an individual must be present in the vehicle while it is being operated. Finally, the individual must have the ability to override the technology and take control of the vehicle’s movements if necessary.
SB 663 adds a new section to the Revised Judicature Act and states the manufacturer of such a vehicle would not be liable for damages in the event the vehicle was converted or modified by another person. For more information on these bills, or to read the entire text of the bills, click here
In testimony before the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday, representatives from General Motors (GM) supported both bills with the caveat that it will have to be amended as technology advances. The GM witness proposed changes to the bills that would require a driver to be in charge of the vehicle, and advocated for Michigan to become a test center for automated motor vehicles. And, although automakers have developed super cruise control which regulates lane and speed control without hands on driving, it is the contention of the automakers that we are still a ways off before a vehicle is fully autonomous. That is why, they contend, the legislation should foster testing as opposed to fully operational vehicles.
Joining GM in support of the legislation are the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association and Chrysler. Ford is neutral on the bills.
Google opposed the legislation, seeking instead a law making automated motor vehicles more operational, much like the California, Florida and Nevada legislation, which allows for the sale or lease of automated motor vehicles.
The House Commerce Committee is scheduled to meet next Wednesday and it is believed at this time the votes are there to send both SB 169 and 663 to the full House with a potential for passage by next Thursday, the last legislative session day of the year.