Michigan poised to drive the automated vehicle industry

Senator Mike Kowall in the Detroit News

The future has come to Detroit. Over the next two weeks, the most significant and important auto show in the world, the North American International Auto Show, will display a dazzling array of cutting-edge automotive technology downtown at Cobo Center.
This year, the NAIAS celebrates its 25th anniversary as an international event. For decades, beginning in the early 20th Century, Detroit hosted a regional auto show. In 1989, thanks to a forward-thinking group of auto dealers within the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, the show was opened to an international audience, and the NAIAS was born.
Twenty-five years later, the NAIAS has become the most prestigious auto show in the world, allowing the public and industry experts alike access to tomorrow's vehicles, displaying the most innovative automotive technology on the planet. The news media's preview kicks off today, and the public show starts Saturday.
More than 5,000 journalists from around the world are expected to attend the auto show this year. Its impact will be felt across the globe.
As the state senator for the 15th District, representing thousands of residents who work in the automobile industry, as well as at countless auto manufacturing and supplier companies, I am eagerly anticipating the auto show. But this year, I have an even keener interest in it.
I sponsored two measures last year to allow the testing of automated motor vehicles on Michigan roadways. Automated vehicles are capable of sensing their surroundings and navigating without human input.
Senate Bill 169 will allow automakers and upfitters to test automated motor vehicles with a human in the driver's seat to monitor performance and intervene if necessary. SB 663 will protect automakers from civil liability for damages caused by modified autonomous vehicles, unless the defect from which the damages resulted was present in the vehicle when it was manufactured.
In his 2013 State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder said he wanted to establish Michigan as a leader in automated vehicle technology to attract jobs stemming from this developing industry. I am happy to say that we are now closer to realizing this goal, as the governor recently signed both measures into law, as Public Acts 231 and 251 of 2013.
Last year, an automated vehicle was featured at the NAIAS. I hope to see some more of these vehicles at the show again this year. Automated vehicles are a remarkable technology that someday could improve the lives of millions of Americans. The technology will also strengthen the economies of the states in which it is based. Michigan is now poised to become a leader among those states.
The NAIAS represents the best the automotive world has to offer. Automated vehicles are part of that cutting-edge technology. I am proud that Michigan is now home to both.
Mike Kowall, a Republican from White Lake Township, represents Michigan's 15th District in the state Senate, and is the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation. This column was originally written for the Spinal Column Newsweekly.