Michigan, the state where the American automobile industry established itself, has taken serious steps into passing regulations that will set the standards for self-driving cars. While we have reported on Curious before about Pittsburgh and Boston looking into implementing self-driving cars into Uber’s regular rotation, Michigan will become the first state in the Union to implement regulations specific to autonomous vehicles. This is all leading to a future that Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing business envision: a world where people won’t actually own cars. They picture a future where through your smartphone, you order a car, the car arrives sans driver, and you get whisked off to your destination. Need a luxury car for a special occasion? Off to the smartphone, and a luxury car shows up with the caveat that you pay a little more. And as this future is all self-driving, there is no reason to park or store the vehicle until you are done with business for the day.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed four bills into law on December 9, 2016 creating the first comprehensive, statewide self-driving regulations in the United States. One of these bills showed that only motor vehicle manufacturers would be allowed to operate on-demand network of self-driving cars. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Intelligent Transportation Systems program manager Matt Smith, non-traditional customers like Google, Uber, and Apple (tech companies, as opposed to car and truck manufacturers like Ford, GM, and Chevrolet) will be required to test and deploy their vehicles on public roads. To do so, they would have to either work with a motor vehicle manufacturer to develop and produce those cars, or get their vehicle or prototype approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
It’s a fascinating political maneuver on Snyder’s part. These laws have been designed to assure tech companies based out of Silicon Valley and elsewhere that in order to operate in the state, you must work with one of the Detroit-based auto manufacturers. This is a clever, savvy strategy to move the center of self-driving car technology to Michigan, a state once synonymous with innovation which this technology unquestionably is. More than likely, the West Coast tech giants will team up with one of Michigan’s auto manufacturers. The question remains: Which one will be first.
Between us, I’m thinking Chevrolet in how they have taken to developing electric cars with their Volt and Bolt models.
MDOT, under the new law, will require automakers operating ride-hail networks to take full liability for accidents in which the vehicle driving itself is found at fault.
The autonomous car is really something, and what ride share networks are picturing with people not owning cars is not as far-fetched as you might think. I could easily see, in twenty years, car ownership would be deemed illegal, and humans would no longer be able to drive on the road. For anyone who desires that experience of driving a car, you would have to go somewhere like an amusement park. They will feature a rental car experience and only under highly regulated conditions would you be able to take the wheel. Then once you had your experience, you would hail a self-driving car and toodle on home.
It’s one possible future, but right now what Michigan has put into their books offers such a possibility. What do you think? Would you prefer not to own a car, and put your safety into the hands of a computer? Go on and leave us your thoughts in the comments below.
A research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratfdord University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.