Michigan could become the latest state to allow testing of self-driving of cars on public roads if the Michigan House approves legislation already approved by the Senate.

When lawmakers return to work the week of Dec. 3, the state House’s Commerce Committee is expected to take up bills permitting testing and limiting the liability of auto suppliers and manufacturers of vehicles that are modified for testing. The Senate already has approved the legislation, and it could be on Governor Rick Snyder’s desk by year’s end.

“Automotive companies, suppliers, technology firms have expressed the desire to test technology in Michigan rather than going out of state,” said State Senator Mike Kowall, who introduced the legislation and is vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Michigan has more than 330 companies that engage in automotive research and development, spending over $11 billion annually. This measure would help ensure that research and development expenditures and taxes related to automated vehicles stay in Michigan.”

Under the Michigan rules, a driver would be required to be in the driver’s seat at all times during testing to take over in the case of emergency. Manufacturers and suppliers would use an “M” license plate for automated vehicle testing. “Upfitters” of automated vehicles, such as Google, would be permitted to test vehicles along with manufacturers.

The action comes as the U.S. Congress is set to hold a hearing on autonomous vehicles amid growing interest among automakers. They will hear from General Motors Co. and Nissan Motor Co. executives along with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The University of Michigan says that by 2021, Ann Arbor could become the first U.S. city with a shared fleet of networked, driverless vehicles. That’s the goal of the Mobility Transformation Center, a cross-campus U-M initiative that also involves government and industry representatives. Ann Arbor has been home to a 15-month-long ongoing study of 3,000 vehicles that are linked to one another in a test of technology to see if connected cars can help each other avoid crashes.


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