Google Seeks Changes in Michigan's Self-Driving Laws

By: 
Contributor

Michigan is looking to continue its status as a leader of autonomous automobile technology in the United States, but Google has recently aired grievances about the state's self-driving laws.

The California tech company is contesting legislation the Michigan Senate passed last week aimed at making the state a central location for autonomous car research and testing.

The legislation allegedly excludes companies like Google, which may be newcomers to the self-driving movement.

In a letter, John Krafcik, head of Google's Self-Driving Car Project, described two separate pieces of the legislation and requested that they be amended.

The first defines a "motor vehicle manufacturer," which refers to a company that has been producing and selling motor vehicles prior to engaging in testing within the state's borders.

"One interpretation of that definition would exclude companies, like Google, that manufactures autonomous vehicles but do not currently sell them," Krafcik wrote.

The second requires autonomous vehicles operating in Michigan to be "supplied or controlled by a motor vehicle manufacturer."

"That could be interpreted to exclude vehicles supplied by a vehicle manufacturer that another company, like Google, modifies with automated driving systems," Krafcik said.

While Google is concerned about the inclusivity of Michigan's newest legislation, others in the state are concerned about both self-driving and human-operated vehicles for different reasons.

In an effort to reduce the number of crashes in certain areas, officers have been placing extra patrols in those places where crashes happen most frequently as a result of distracted driving.

So far, there were over 114 traffic stops over the first two days that extra patrols were deployed.

On average a person can drive drunk up to 80 times before being caught, but texting drivers can go even longer.

Fortunately, the extra patrols are set to continue through September.

Most citations issued have been for texting or distracted driving, totaling 51 this month.

"A lot of (people) are disgruntled, but a lot of them understand why we're doing it," said Deputy Russ Nowiski. "At the end of the month we're going to review our statistics to see if we’ve made an impact, but I think we have."

There's no word yet as to whether or not self-driving cars would help Nowiski in his pursuit or not, but it's clear that Google has a stake in the matter just as much as citizens of Michigan do.

Their involvement here only underscores just how intense the competition has gotten.

Krafcik's letter ends, "We urge you to consider these small but crucial amendments to the bills to ensure that investment and deployment of autonomous vehicle technology is not inadvertently discouraged in the state."

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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