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Legislative Update: SAVE Act Paves Way for Autonomous Vehicle Testing in Michigan

On Aug. 31, the Michigan Senate Economic Development and International Investment Committee convened at Nexteer Automotive in Saginaw to hear testimony and consider Senate Bills 995, 996, 997 and 998. Collectively referred to as the SAVE Act, the legislation serves to update Michigan’s existing regulatory framework regarding connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology development and deployment and keep the state on the leading edge of a global effort to redefine the future of transportation. All four bills were reported out of committee without opposition and passed a full Senate vote on Sept. 7.

MICHauto investors Nexteer Automotive and General Motors testified in support of the bills, as did Ford Motor Co. Senators Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) also testified, together, in a show of bipartisan support of the legislation, as did Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle, and Jeremy Hendges of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC).

Senators Kowall and Warren are members of the Michigan Automotive Caucus. Director Steudle and the MEDC are both members of MICHauto’ s Michigan Mobility Initiative.

MICHauto investors Toyota and Delphi Automotive submitted written support, as did Lyft, the Michigan Environmental Council, and the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Testimony focused primarily on the increased safety and enhanced mobility aspects of connected and autonomous vehicle technology, and the economic development impact it will have on Michigan. The bill package positions Michigan at the forefront of the next major transition in the automotive industry. By updating the existing law, the SAVE Act “catches up” with CAV technology and encourages continued development in Michigan without government interference, creating critical jobs.

Also highlighted was the bipartisan nature of the bills and the public-private collaboration between industry, academia, and government that led to the development of the package. Michigan’s cooperative approach is a testament to the type of collaboration that is necessary to lead in CAV technology development and serves as a model for other states – and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – to emulate.

As Michigan’s automotive dominance is increasingly under attack from competing states and countries around the world, the bill package is a significant step forward in determining how CAV technology will be defined, incentivized, deployed, and regulated in the 21st century.

View a brief overview of the four bills.

Senate Bills 995 and 996, sponsored by Sen. Kowall:

  • Allow for an automated motor vehicle to be operated on a street or highway. Previously, automated motor vehicles could only be operated on a street or highway for research or testing purposes.
  • Allow for research or testing of automated vehicles/technology/driving systems on a highway or street without a human operator in the vehicle. Previously, an individual had to be present in the vehicle.
  • Specify that an “automated driving system” is the driver/operator of a vehicle when engaged.
  • Allow university researchers or employees of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) or the Department of State to operate automated motor vehicles for research or testing purposes. Previously, only manufacturers could operate automated motor vehicles for research or testing purposes.
  • Allow for commercial platooning on a street or highway.
  • Create the Michigan Council on Future Mobility.
  • Allow for a motor vehicle manufacturer to participate in a SAVE project.

Senate Bill 997 sponsored by Sen. Warren

  • Establishes a grant-eligible Mobility Research Center at Willow Run in Ypsilanti Township and excludes it from certain provisions that regulate private roads that are open to the general public.

Senate Bill 998 sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth)

  • Exempts a mechanic or vehicle repair facility from liability for damages to an automated motor vehicle, as long as the repairs were made in accordance with the original manufacturer’s specifications.