Kowall, colleagues sponsor autonomous vehicle legislation to increase road safety, strengthen economy

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — A package of bills introduced in the state Senate on Wednesday would update the law on autonomous vehicles to provide safer transportation, better mobility and a stronger economy, said the lead sponsor, Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall.

Senate Bills 995 – 998 would reduce barriers to further research and “real world” testing of autonomous vehicles to move safer technology into the marketplace more quickly.

“Advances in autonomous technology will allow Michigan drivers and their passengers to be safer on the road,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “In addition, a robust and free environment for testing and development will ensure the Michigan economy benefits from this new technology and changes in mobility.”

Kowall sponsored SBs 995 and 996.

SB 995 would allow open operation of autonomous vehicles beyond restricted testing to allow real-world development for all conditions. It would also authorize vehicle platoons and on-demand automated fleet networks for efficiency in delivery and transportation and create the Michigan Council on Future Mobility to keep Michigan at the forefront of mobility developments.

SB 996 would establish critical standards for on-demand vehicle networks to satisfy, including requirements for data collection and crash information that would help companies and transportation researchers evaluate how these networks work and what improvements may be needed.

SB 997, sponsored by Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, would authorize the creation of the American Center for Mobility at the old Willow Run factory site. The center is expected to assume a vital role in research and education on autonomous vehicle technology.

SB 998, sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, would extend the liability protection in current law, which shields manufacturers from liability when an unauthorized person attempts to modify autonomous technology, to a licensed mechanic who follows the manufacturer specifications in working on the technology.

Kowall said Michigan’s current autonomous vehicles law, which took effect in March 2014, is out of date.

“The law is becoming more outdated day by day as technology advances and other states seek the new automotive industry for themselves,” Kowall said. “Michigan’s dominance in auto research and development is under attack from several states and countries who desire to supplant our leadership in transportation. We can’t let that happen.

“More importantly, these bills will increase road safety. Ninety-four percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error. Autonomous vehicles will reduce such errors and decrease the number of traffic deaths annually in the U.S.”

Senate Bills 995 – 998 have been referred to the Senate Committee on Economic Development and International Investment.