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Michigan’s Governor Signs Historic Autonomous Vehicle Legislation

December 12, 2016

Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law historic autonomous vehicle legislation (the “AV Legislation”) permitting the operation on Michigan roadways of autonomous vehicles, platoons of electronically coordinated vehicles and autonomous ride-hailing fleets.

The AV Legislation—previously passed by Michigan’s House of Representatives and concurred with by Michigan’s Senate—differs from the Senate’s original legislation in one important respect: It provides for the deployment of ride-hailing fleets (called “on-demand automated motor vehicle networks” in the legislation) by non-traditional automobile manufacturers, such as Lyft, Uber or Google, provided they meet certain conditions. Of these conditions, the most significant is the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads for more than 1 million miles.

The AV Legislation signals Michigan’s desire to be at the center of advanced vehicle technology developments, without significant state regulatory impediments. Of course, federal laws and regulations, including the regulatory safety scheme of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) and NHTSA’s newly announced Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, will pertain. That policy requests that vehicle manufacturers submit to NHTSA voluntary safety assessments for automated vehicle technology, acknowledging compliance with specified safety factors.

Highlights of each bill are as follows:

  • SB 995 permits the operation of individual autonomous vehicles, platoons of electronically coordinated vehicles and “on-demand automated motor vehicle networks” on Michigan roadways.
  • SB 995 immunizes a manufacturer of Automated Technology or an Automated Driving System against civil liability for damages arising from modifications without the manufacturer’s consent.
  • SB 995 specifies that an autonomous vehicles automated driving system would be considered the driver or operator of a driverless vehicle for purposes of determining compliance with traffic and motor vehicle laws.
  • SB 996 permits self-certifying vehicle manufacturers to deploy “SAVE projects,” which are on-demand automated motor vehicle networks within certain types of geographical areas. These areas include designated municipal and regional authority areas; university campuses; senior citizens developments; and other, similar areas.
  • SB 997 excludes roads within a mobility research center—such as the planned American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan—from Michigan Vehicle Code provisions applicable to private roads open to the general public.
  • SB 998 limits the civil liability of motor vehicle mechanics or motor vehicle repair facilities that repair an autonomous vehicle.

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact Brendan Cahill (248-203-0721), Bill Kohler (313-568-6603), Paul Laurenza (202-906-8646), David Palsrok (517-374-9158), or your Dykema relationship attorney.

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