Governor Rick Snyder will be signing SB-0995 in the coming days, which will continue to make Michigan more friendly to the autonomous car industry. The bill will make Michigan the first state to allow for the operation of driverless cars on the road without a driver or steering wheel present. Human operators have been seen as a necessary safety measure, but supporters of the bill believe that having a human operator in the vehicle is a problem for testing. The bill also allows for “platooning” of autonomous trucks, which according to the bill means “a group of individual motor vehicles that are traveling in a unified manner at electronically coordinated speeds.” In addition the bill will help create a testing facility at a General Motors plant that is no longer in use.

The bill opens Michigan up to business from several companies that are leading the field of autonomous vehicles, including the controversial taxi company, Uber. In August, Uber purchased the company Otto, which created the first autonomous trucks. The company also has begun testing and using autonomous vehicles for picking up passengers. The company claims to want to innovate driving technology, but reports have shown a rocky relationship with their drivers in which less than 50% were satisfied with the company, and replacing them with self-driving cars would significantly cut down on costs.

This bill comes as an effort to help the car companies in the state of Michigan that are attempting to evolve into more innovative companies. The hope is that as autonomous cars and trucks become a reality, Michigan will be the center of a reinvigorated car industry. Currently several companies already have self-driving car research centers in the state, including Google, Uber, GM, Lyft, and Fiat-Chrysler. Ford also plans on adding autonomous cars, announcing that they plan to have a car on the market by 2021, and will be offering a ride-sharing service that is similar to Uber and Lyft. Ford CEO Mark Fields has said that “The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago.”

Republican State Senator Mike Kowall, the bill’s sponsor, believes that the bill will “secure Michigan’s place… as the center of the universe for autonomous vehicle studies, research, development, and manufacturing.”  Companies are already clamoring to move more of their testing operations to Michigan, with CEO of technology company Peloton saying that they “are planning to utilize the Michigan law as soon as possible.”

California is the current home for the majority of autonomous testing, however their increasingly strict laws and refusal to allow testing without a driver has frustrated several companies. Kelly Bartlett, an official with the Michigan Department of Transportation has stated that they “think that this is going to be the most comprehensive package, without being really overblown like California.”

As Michigan continues to create legislation friendly to the autonomous car industry, look for them to be pioneers in the development and manufacturing of self-driving cars. Companies have already begun moving testing operations to Michigan, and we should see them continue to expand their research and development within the state. Perhaps this is the innovation that will energize the car industry and revitalize Michigan’s struggling economy.