DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – University of Michigan and state government officials aim to have a 32-acre driverless car test site running by September – in time for a global conference on intelligent transportation systems.
Gov. Rick Snyder and other state and university officials gathered Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to outline plans for the Mobility Transformation Facility, a $6.5 million site on the Ann Arbor university’s North Campus.
It will offer a simulated urban environment with roads, intersections, building facades, traffic circles and a hill. The site is expected to be unveiled prior to the 2014 World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, which runs Sept. 7-11 in Detroit.
Two developments enable the facility — a new state law letting companies test driverless but occupied cars on roads, and a street-level research project in Ann Arbor involving 3,000 people in networked vehicles.
The law, passed by Snyder in the last days of 2013, allows automakers and upfitters to test automated motor vehicles, but requires a human to be in the driver’s seat to monitor performance and take the wheel if necessary. The law also protects original manufacturers from civil liability for damages caused by modified driverless vehicles, unless the defect from which the damages resulted was present in the vehicle when it was manufactured.
While carmakers have expressed great interest in developing the driverless cars, they say the modified automobile’s future won’t materialize unless legislators around the world create a new legal framework.
Though technological innovation isn’t an issue, there are many speed bumps on the road to this envisioned future. Consumers must accept the safety and reliability of such systems, governments must draft and pass legislation and the insurance industry needs to draw up guidelines to answer tricky questions such as who’d be at fault in the event of a crash.
Regulation is a patchwork across the world and within the U.S. Laws regulating autonomous driving have been passed in the U.S. in Florida, California and Nevada – but not nationwide – making it impractical for automakers to sell these super-high-tech vehicles in America. In Germany, computer-assisted driving is allowed but only up to speeds of 10 kilometers per hour (6.2 miles per hour).
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