U-M Unveils Autonomous Shuttle as Snyder Signs Driverless Car Bills

Today, Michigan took another step toward its goal of being a global hub for the development of autonomous vehicles when the University of Michigan unveiled a 15-passenger driverless shuttle. Separately, Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation easing regulations for testing autonomous technologies down the road at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn.

U-M’s electric shuttle, which is manufactured by the French firm Navya and is called ARMA, is the first vehicle of its kind to operate in North America. The university said it’s designed for use at sites that need efficient, convenient “first and last mile transportation,” such as theme parks and college campuses. ARMA will support research and be used in self-guided tours of Mcity, U-M’s test site for connected and automated vehicles, the school said. A collaboration with TechLab, U-M’s incubator for mobility startups, will give students an opportunity to work with ARMA and explore joint research opportunities with Navya.

Carrie Morton, deputy director of MTC, said in a press release that ARMA provides a unique research platform for studying how automated vehicles help people access mass transit, how driverless cars perceive the world around them, and getting passengers to feel comfortable interacting with autonomous vehicles.

The kind of research detailed by Morton will move forward more quickly thanks to first-of-their-kind laws signed by Snyder in Dearborn today clarifying how self-driving cars can legally operate on public roads in Michigan. The legislation also addresses testing driverless cars without steering wheels, pedals, or human control; automotive and tech companies focused on self-driving cars in ridesharing services; and self-driving cars to be sold for public use once the technology has been tested and certified.

In addition, the legislation will establish the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, an arm of the state’s transportation department charged with recommending policies to set industry standards, regulating connected vehicle networks, and governing how traffic data will be collected and shared.

Michigan is the first state in the nation to pass comprehensive legislation surrounding the development and operation of autonomous vehicles. According to a press release, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Google, Uber, and Lyft helped state officials craft the legislation.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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