Sen. Kowall welcomes Commerce pastor to Senate session

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, welcomed to the Michigan Capitol on Thursday the Rev. Dr. Deane B. Wyllys (left) of Commerce United Methodist Church. Pastor Wyllys gave the invocation before the start of the Senate session.

Note: Click the image for a print-quality version. Other photos are available on this site by clicking the Photowire link above.

Kowall welcomes Nick Bush to Capitol

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, welcomed Nick Bush (left) to the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday. Bush was the second-place essay contest winner at the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service Legislative Day at the Capitol.

Note: Click the image for a print-quality version. Other Kowall photos are available by clicking the Photowire link, above.

Sen. Kowall offers free tax preparation guides

LANSING—Residents of the 15th Senate District looking for tax preparation information can obtain a free copy of the 2013 Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide by visiting Sen. Mike Kowall’s website, the lawmaker said Thursday.

The guide, which is a reference for the 2012 tax year, is designed to help residents prepare their state tax returns.

“It is important to have updated information when filling out your taxes, since the tax laws change every year,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “Keeping up with these changes can be a challenge. That’s why this free preparation guide is such a useful tool. I am happy we have made it available on my website.”

The booklet contains information on Michigan’s income tax, property taxes and tax credits. Included is a year-long listing of important property tax dates and deadlines as well as copies of the most commonly used tax forms. The guide also features addresses, phone numbers and email information for obtaining state agency tax assistance.

Kowall added that the guide is meant as a helpful resource and not as a substitute for Michigan Department of Treasury tax instruction booklets.

Residents can contact Kowall’s office toll-free at 1-866-301-6515 to reserve a free copy.

Free copies may also be downloaded from this website by clicking Publications.

Michigan Next To Legalize Testing Of Autonomous Cars?

From MotorAuthority

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.

Kowall bill could make Michigan the center of automated vehicle testing

LANSING—State Sen. Mike Kowall has introduced legislation that would position Michigan to become the center of automated vehicle testing in the United States.

Senate Bill 169 would permit the testing of automated vehicles on public Michigan roadways through the use of a “Manufacturer” license plate.

“Data from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation show Michigan has more than 330 companies that engage in automotive research and development—spending over $11 billion annually,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “My measure would help ensure that research and development expenditures and taxes related to automated vehicles stay in Michigan.”

In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder said he wanted to establish Michigan as a leader in automated vehicle testing to attract jobs stemming from this emerging industry.

Automated vehicles are capable of sensing their surroundings and navigating without human input. As of October 2012, three states have passed legislation regarding the testing of autonomous vehicles. Currently, there are no defined federal regulations regarding automated vehicle technology.

The governor proposed that Michigan enact laws clearly stating that testing and operating this new technology in Michigan is legal. SB 169 signals that Michigan intends to be a leader in this field and attract autonomous vehicle companies to locate here.

Under Kowall’s bill, a manufacturer license plate would include an “M” designation. The measure would permit manufacturers and “subcomponent” suppliers to use the M plate for automated vehicle testing. “Upfitters” of automated vehicle technology would be included as subcomponent suppliers under the legislation.

The Michigan Secretary of State office (SOS) has the responsibility for determining whether an entity qualifies as an upfitter or subcomponent supplier. The SOS has requested that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) work closely with the SOS to determine whether entities can be qualified as an upfitter or subcomponent supplier.

“Automated vehicles will make our roads safer and our vehicles more fuel efficient,” said MDOT Director Kirk Steudle. “The trucking industry estimates up to a 20 percent fuel savings when the accelerator is controlled with automation.”

Michigan develops autonomous driving bill, with an assist from Google and support from governor


LANSING, MI — Self-driving vehicles may be coming to a road near you. And sooner than you think.

State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is sponsoring a bill that would allow automotive companies and related suppliers to test autonomous vehicles on Michigan roads, provided they are occupied by a human and are outfitted with a manufacturer license plate.

California, Nevada and Florida already have similar laws on the books, according to MDOT Director Kirk Steudle, who said that Michigan companies are spending an estimated $120,000 per automated vehicle to test their new technology in those states.

"It seems absolutely crazy that we should put that burden on suppliers and manufacturers," Steudle said today during testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee. "They're here, and they should be able to do that testing right here in Michigan."

Senate Bill 169 would allow suppliers and startups to apply for manufacturer plates in order test self-driving vehicles, but it would explicitly prohibit automated driving in all other circumstances.

AUTOnomous: How close are we to self-driving vehicles?

Kowall wrote the bill after consulting with Detroit automakers, who are each developing their own autonomous technology, and Continental, a German-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills that recently retrofitted a Volkswagen Passat with autonomous technology and completed a two-week endurance test in Nevada.

Kowall also worked with Google, the California-based technology giant, which has logged more than 400,000 miles in that state as it tests its own fleet of self-driving vehicles. Public Policy Manager Leslie Miller flew in for today's committee hearing, outlining what Google would like to see in any autonomous vehicle bill and discussing the general need for such legislation.

"We believe this technology is only years away, not decades away," she said. "So we think it's an important discussion to have."

Gov. Rick Snyder began the public discussion last month during his State of the State address, suggesting that Michigan must be on the forefront of advanced vehicle technology if it hopes to retain its moniker as the "automotive capital of the world."

AUTOnomous: The reality of self-driving vehicles

The governor re-iterated his support yesterday in Detroit, noting that he's had the opportunity to ride in an autonomous vehicle, which he enjoyed.

"There's someone still in the car, folks, behind the wheel, so don't get nervous about that. But we should be leaders. There's actually two or three states ahead of us now in doing that."

Kowall, who plans to tweak his bill after meeting with Google representatives later today, said he is confident that the committee will advance the legislation. After all, he pointed out, all members — both Democrats and Republicans — are co-sponsors.

"This is probably going to be one of those bills that has nothing to do with politics," Kowall said. "It's got to do with technology, it's got to do with jobs and it's got to do with hard-working men and women here in Michigan being able to raise their families. It's real exciting."