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Michigan Passes Self-Driving Regulations

On Friday of last week (Dec. 9), Michigan became the first state in the union to pass statewide, comprehensive self-driving vehicle regulations that allow autonomous vehicles to drive … well, autonomously.

Michigan, the legacy home of the nation’s auto industry, now leads the nation in autonomous vehicle policy, says Recode — ahead of Florida, California and a few others with some current legislation.

Four bills were signed into law by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, including an amendment to the existing Michigan motor vehicle laws as well as another law that previously had banned autonomous vehicles. The new regulations allow for testing and deployment of on-demand networks of self-driving vehicles as well as the eventual sale of self-driving cars to consumers.

As of now, only motor vehicle manufacturers can operate self-driving car networks in Michigan. Tech giants Apple and Google and rideshare providers like Uber and Lyft are unable to launch self-driving car networks on public roads in Michigan unless they partner with traditional vehicle manufacturers in the development and production processes. Additionally, these companies can also have vehicle prototypes approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A Michigan Department of Transportation was quoted as saying, “Google and Apple wouldn’t be classified as a motor vehicle manufacturer until they have vehicles on the open market that meet [the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards]. For now, they would be classified as a manufacturer of automated vehicle technology and could become a motor vehicle manufacturer if they met the requirements.”

Additionally, the new laws in Michigan clarify the issue of liability in accidents involving autonomous vehicles. The Michigan Department of Transportation will require self-driving car manufacturers operating a network of vehicles to take full liability for accidents where the self-driving vehicle is found at fault during the investigation.

Michigan now finds itself one step closer to Lyft’s (and others’) vision of transportation’s future, wherein “riding is the new driving.” Whether consumers will be riding largely in personal self-driving cars or via rideshare providers is still an open question.

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