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."
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.
GM was joined by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Toyota, Google, Uber, and Lyft in helping to define Michigan's final autonomous vehicle legislation, according to Michigan state officials.
In January, GM announced the formation of a dedicated autonomous vehicle engineering team and a $500 million investment in Lyft to develop an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S. In March, the company announced the acquisition of Cruise Automation to provide deep software talent to help speed development.
In June, GM began testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs on the public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale. The company has more than 40 autonomous vehicles testing in the two cities.
Earlier this year, Pittsburgh began allowing real-world tests of a self-driving, Uber-owned Ford Fusion.
Several states and Washington D.C. have passed autonomous vehicle legislation that allows for limited testing of cars and trucks on public roadways. Since 2012, at least 34 states and D.C. have considered legislation related to autonomous vehicles.
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