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Expect to see driverless cars test-driving on Michigan roads soon


Governor Snyder has signed a law that opens up Michigan’s roads as testing grounds for driverless cars.

More and more, it seems that these autonomous vehicles— “intelligent” cars that can drive themselves and even communicate with each other — will be a big part of our transportation future.

At least, that’s what Gov. Snyder and the state’s carmakers are banking on. And they want to stay ahead of the curve in research and design.

Gov. Snyder’s spokesman, Dave Murray, says the law opening up public roads to driverless cars is meant to encourage “dreaming and creativity” in the automotive sector.

The law allows “automakers and upfitters” to test the vehicles. But Murray says it also recognizes much of the technology is very new — and untested on public roadways.

“(The law) does require a human to be in the driver’s seat to monitor performance, and intervene if necessary,” said Murray. “This is a first step.”

“Our thought is that the brainpower, and the technology, and the engineering skills … that’s all here in Michigan now. We need to be the ones to open the door and take a peek at this new technology.”

The law also shields carmakers from any damage caused by such modified vehicles, unless the damage stems from a flaw in the original manufacturing.

Michigan joins Nevada, California and Florida as states with laws on the books governing the use of automated cars on public roads.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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