Michigan leaders have taken pains to ensure the state remains a welcoming place for the next-generation auto industry. Now they're starting to reap the benefits.
A week after Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, signed a group of bills that make it easier for manufacturers and tech companies to deploy a wide range of autonomous technologies on public roads, General Motors said it will immediately begin testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolts on the state's roads.
"By adding Michigan to our real-world testing program, we're ensuring that our AVs can operate safely across a wide range of road, weather, and climate conditions, from desert heat to Great Lakes snow to crowded city streets," GM CEO Mary Barra said. "This is necessary to make certain our AVs meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we've been building in to traditional vehicles."
GM had already been testing the vehicles within the private confines of its Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, but its previous public road testing programs of self-driving cars took place in Scottsdale, Arizona, and San Francisco in June.
Further, GM said workers at its factory in Orion Township, Michigan, will build Bolt electric vehicles for the test fleet starting in 2017. Depending on specific timing, that may make GM the first auto manufacturer to build autonomous vehicles in a mass-production assembly plant.
It's not known how many autonomous Bolts the company intends to produce at the factory, which currently manufactures the Bolt and the Sonic. Equipment for the autonomous Bolts includes lidar, cameras, and other sensors, according to GM.
State officials in Michigan have led efforts to promote investments in autonomous-vehicle research and development, including funding portions of the American Center for Mobility, an autonomous- and connected-car test facility in Ypsilanti on which construction crews broke ground last month. Earlier, the state made similar funding available for the Mcity test facility on the campus of the University of Michigan.
But this month, Gov. Snyder signed four autonomous-vehicle-related bills. These make autonomous-vehicle testing legal on public roads and broadly support the testing and deployment of autonomous taxi fleets, like the ones that GM is exploring with ride-hailing service Lyft, centered on the use of the Bolt.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), a member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Smart Transportation Caucus, applauded Thursday's announcements.
"I'm proud to see that General Motors and Michigan UAW workers will continue to lead the next transformational shift in the automotive industry by building their first driverless car in Michigan," he said.
Text Source: Car and Driver
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