General Motors announced it will be the first company to begin testing fully autonomous cars on Michigan's roads after the state passed legislation that allowed self-driving vehicles on all public roadways.
GM said it will test versions of all-electric Chevrolet Bolts equipped with self-driving technology that it said will begin rolling out of a Michigan plant in January.
"Revolutionizing transportation for our customers while improving safety on roads is the goal of our autonomous vehicle technology, and today's announcement gets us one step closer to making this vision a reality," GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "Our autonomous technology will be reliable and safe, as customers have come to expect from any of our vehicles."
Nissan Motor Co. General Manager Tetsuya Iijima removes his hands from the steering wheel of an autonomous Nissan Leaf as it pilots itself through Sunnyvale, Calif. in January 2016.
Some self-driving vehicles are already being tested by GM at its Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich., but after the state legislature passed a series of bills allowing autonomous vehicles on its roadways, the carmaker said they will now expand to public roads on the facility's outskirts.
Within the next few months, testing will expand to metro Detroit, which will become GM's main location for development of autonomous technology in winter climates.
Workers at GM's Orion Township assembly plant will build test fleet Bolt EVs equipped with fully autonomous technology that will include LIDAR, cameras, and sensors.
The test fleet vehicles will be used by GM engineers for continued testing and validation of GM's autonomous technology already underway on public roads in Scottsdale, Ariz. and San Francisco, as well as part of the Michigan testing fleet, GM said.
Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed four bills that were backed by automakers and were aimed at accelerating Michigan into the lead past California and especially Silicon Valley, where autonomous technology has taken the forefront with developers such as Google.
"As far as I know, Michigan is the first state to make it official that these types of vehicles can be used on public roads," said Brandon Schoettle, a project manager with the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
Michigan's new laws not only allow vehicles with fully autonomous capabilities but also those without drivers or steering wheels. Conversely, California prohibits those that don't have a steering wheel or a brake pedal.
Michigan, however, has cleared for both carmakers and technology companies to test and sell their self-driving vehicles in the state, and allows for ride-sharing services, such as Uber, to use those vehicles as well once they've cleared testing.
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