Autonomous Cars: Michigan Ditches Steering Wheel

university of michigan mcity toyota grant

If you find yourself in Michigan in the near future and see a car going down the road without a driver at the wheel, don’t be alarmed.

The state, which is also home to MCity, an autonomous testing ground, just become the first to make self-driving cars – without a backup driver in the front seat – legal on public roads.  It gets crazier though. The cars don’t even have to have steering wheels, pedals or humans in any seat for that matter. It opens the door for self-driving taxi hailing services. The self-driving ‘taxis’ must be certified though.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed the new legislation into law this month, saying he hopes the framework promotes safety in driverless car development. The legislation specifically applies to automakers and tech companies who are running self-driving tests. The law will also allow the sale of self-driving vehicles to the public once they are tested and certified.

Other states allow autonomous car testing on their roads, but only if a human driver is in the front seat to take over in the case of an emergency. Michigan hopes it will attract more autonomous development (versus their main competition, California.)

GM applauds the new law as a good ‘model’ for other states.  Ford, Fiat, Chrysler, and Toyota also all gave their approval. Other companies on board include Google and ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled its first autonomous car guidelines in September. The guidelines are a 15-point checklist the NHTSA hopes to use to keep tabs on automaker developments and testing. However, at this point it’s voluntary for automakers.

With Michigan’s new law in place, it’s only a matter of time before other states like California follow suit. Now all we need automakers to do is invent a car to bring us coffee. 

Photo Credit: MCity
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