Senate committee expected to OK autonomous car bills
Michigan legislators could vote as early as next week on sweeping autonomous vehicle bills that would allow self-driving cars on any Michigan road without a human driver behind the wheel.
The Senate’s Economic Development and International Investment Committee is holding a public hearing on the bills at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Nexteer Automotive, 3900 E. Holland, in Buena Vista Township in Saginaw County.
The seven-member committee is expected to send the bills to the Senate floor for a vote as early as Tuesday. If approved, the bills would need approval of the House before heading to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.
“We’re very, very sure that this is going to move out of committee tomorrow,” Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, who introduced the legislation, told The Detroit News on Tuesday. “We’ve aired out just about everything over the sun.”
Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, who chairs the committee, said the updated bills are meant to “put Michigan on the forefront” of testing for emerging autonomous vehicle technologies.
The bills already have the support of several automakers, suppliers and government officials.
Those expected to testify on Wednesday include Pam Fletcher, General Motors Co.’s executive chief engineer for electrified vehicles and autonomous integration, and Emily Frascaroli, who serves as counsel for Ford Motor Co. Representatives from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Toyota Motor Corp. also are expected to attend the meeting but not testify, according to officials.
Kowall said representatives for California-based companies such as Lyft, Google and Uber Technologies Inc. also are expected to attend. Written testimony will be accepted.
The Senate Bills 995-998 would allow for on-demand, ride-sharing autonomous vehicle networks to be operated by auto manufacturers. The legislation would update a Michigan law passed in 2013 that took effect in March 2014 that allows for autonomous vehicle testing on state roads.
Michigan law now requires a self-driving car have an operator who could take over if necessary. The proposed law would allow an automated driving system to operate as the driver.
Kowall said the updates are meant to be proactive changes, as several automakers look to test and deploy fully autonomous fleets in the coming years.