On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, the Michigan Senate Committee on Economic Development and International Investment unanimously reported, out of committee, four bills (the “AMV Bills”) that would permit the deployment of driverless vehicles on Michigan roads. The potential effects of the AMV Bills would resound across the growing array of automated vehicle stakeholders, including automotive manufacturers, commercial freight providers, technology providers, infrastructure and signage providers, universities, research centers, insurers and mobility facility developers—with many benefiting from enactment of the AMV Bills. It is expected that the full Senate will vote to move the legislation to the House next week.

Highlights of each bill are as follows:

  • SB 995 permits the operation of individual AMVs, 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 AMV’s 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 AMV.

Michigan’s proposed legislation does not contemplate significant regulatory hurdles to the deployment of AMVs, and would prohibit the imposition of a fee, franchise, registration or regulation upon an on-demand automated motor vehicle network by a local unit of government. The AMV Bills, therefore, further signals that Michigan has recognized the important role that AMVs will play in the State’s future.