In an effort to remain a state leader in the auto industry, the Michigan Senate passed Senate Bill 169 this week that, if the Michigan House also passes the bill, would allow manufacturers to test self-driving cars on Michigan public roads. Florida, Nevada, and California have already passed similar laws. The Michigan Bill requires that a human operator be present in the self-driving car to assume control in case of an emergency. Governor Synder, during his recent State of the State speech, challenged the Legislature to pass an autonomous driving law to allow Michigan to retain its claim as the “automotive capitol of the world.” Legislators believe that this Bill will get some minor tweaking in the House and then be sent to the Governor’s desk for signing into law by the end of March.
Some manufacturers believe that because crash avoidance technology has progressed so rapidly that there could be self-driving cars that will be ready for the public marketplace and public roadways within only a few years rather than being decades away. If this is true then the Legislators should begin working on new legislation that will decide who becomes liable for damages caused by self-driving cars that do not avoid a crash and injure passengers or occupants of other vehicles. Additionally, the Legislature needs to come up with modifications to the No-Fault law for the division of responsibilities between insurance companies when two or more autonomous vehicles collide due to technical malfunctions or human error in programming the self-driving cars. Technology experts speak about a future where the slow adopter of technology that still utilizes a human driver could be the most dangerous and unpredictable vehicle on the road. These slow adopters may have to pay more for insurance just for the privilege of driving his / her own car. Americans’ stubborn independence and love-of-driving may be what slows this future prediction of highways full of autonomous driving vehicles.