A new law that will allow companies to test driverless cars on Michigan roads will be a boost for the state's auto industry, according to Gov. Rick Snyder and the sponsor of the legislation.
Snyder signed the bills Friday, saying the legislation, which requires a person to be in the driverless vehicle to take the wheel if necessary, was needed to keep Michigan in the lead in vehicle research and design.
"Michigan is the automotive capital of the world," he said in a statement. "By allowing the testing of automated, driverless cars today, we will stay at the forefront in automotive technological advances that will make driving safer and more efficient in the future."
Snyder's office said that Michigan businesses and universities in Michigan "are leading the way in many intelligent, connected vehicle programs aimed at driverless cars. This legislation ... is key to the future of research and development of automotive technology in the state."
Both bills were sponsored by state Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake. He told The Detroit News that the laws could help retain research business in Michigan.
Continental Corp. had considered moving some autonomous vehicle testing to Nevada, Kowall said. The company has facilities in Auburn Hills and the Sault Ste. Marie area.
California and Florida also allow such tests.
In November, the University of Michigan announced a collaboration with government and business to make Ann Arbor the first American city with a shared fleet of networked, driverless vehicles by 2021.
Researchers are conducting a street-level connected vehicle experiment called Safety Pilot that involves 3,000 area residents in networked vehicles.
In October, the university's regents approved a $6.5 million, 30-acre driverless car test site near the school's North Campus.