THE CAR COACH REPORTS:
September 9, 2016
Bringing It Back Home? Edition
Remember when Michigan was the center of the universe when it came to car design? Think GM’s Technical Center in Warren, MI where “today meets tomorrow.” Well it seems that Michigan wants those days back: http://www.autonews.com/article/20160907/OEM06/160909882/mich-senate-unanimously-approves-autonomous-vehicle-legislation.
On Wednesday of this week, the Michigan legislature unanimously passed laws granting unrestricted access on Michigan roads to autonomous vehicles. The laws are aimed at wooing autonomous tech development dollars to Michigan, the birthplace and home of auto engineering and industry.
An interesting point in the new laws is that the GM Willow Run factory in Ypsilanti, which is part of the Arsenal of Democracy, is going to be repurposed as the American Center for Mobility. The center will be a testing ground for autonomous and connected vehicles. But the laws still provide access for the new tech to be on the road at the same time with other cars with no restrictions. What’s important there is that cars with only computers as drivers are legal.
On paper and in theory, that sounds great I think. Lots of data can be collected this way. But paper theory and real world roads don’t always mix so well. The accidents that occurred in self-drivers had a human in the vehicle to take over in case something should go wrong. In Michigan, it won’t be required.
None of the laws seem to address the concerns that a lot of us have, like liability for instance. Say it’s snowing in Michigan—a stretch, right?—and an autonomous car hits another car or a pedestrian because the sensors couldn’t distinguish the shapes and there wasn’t a human behind the wheel to try to stop the crash. Who is legally responsible? And why was the vehicle allowed with only a computer to drive it on the road to test the sensors before it was tested on a closed course? Obviously, it’s a hypothetical with no answers, but that’s just one of a few major issues that keep surfacing in the rush to put self-drivers on the road before they are ready.
Of course, the flipside to the argument is that when automobiles first started out, there wasn’t a ton of legislation then either. And we turned out okay from that, though cars didn’t actually go very fast then. Still it is something to think about.
But what do you think about the new Michigan laws?
Post your comments at @Laurenfix.
If you happen to have 225 thousand or so spare dollars you should consider buying the new Bentley Flying Spur W12 S. http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/flying-spur-w12-s-bentleys-first-200-mph-four-door
The extra letter in the name means the Flying Spur comes with 626hp and the ability to go from zero to 60mph in 4.2 seconds. Of course, the Flying Spur weighs 3 tons, so I would be really interested to see its braking stats. But that’s for another post.
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