Posted on 11/1/2017

The Next Revolution in Michigan Manufacturing

U.S. Senator Gary Peters

Michigan made its mark on the world by mastering the innovation that made the United States an industrial powerhouse. Our state’s manufacturing and automation launched America’s middle class, and built the cars and trucks that first connected people and places across this vast country. Today, Michigan is once again at the forefront of the automotive industry, developing innovative self-driving vehicle technologies that will be as transformative as the first Model T that rolled off the assembly line over 100 years ago.

Our state is home to the engineers, manufacturers, suppliers and workers that will lead the way in the next frontier of automotive manufacturing—self-driving vehicles. These revolutionary technologies have the potential to dramatically transform the way we get around and prevent thousands of lost lives on our roads every year, and Michigan has the right tools to bring this technology to consumers. Michigan is also home to world class proving grounds—like the University of Michigan’s Mcity and the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti—that will ensure these lifesaving technologies are well-tested and ready to operate safely our roads. 

In the U.S. Senate, I am working to advance the development and deployment of self-driving cars and ensure Michigan remains the world leader in automotive innovation. The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation I introduced with U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) to clear regulatory hurdles and support the testing and development of self-driving vehicles in the United States, especially here in Michigan. 

These technologies are developing rapidly, and are already being tested on our roads. In just a few years, they will be widely available. The American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act provides flexibility to manufacturers and researchers as they work to develop, test and validate self-driving vehicles on American roads. As a world leader in the automotive industry, Michigan will play a central role in designing and manufacturing the next generation of self-driving vehicles, creating new job opportunities and strengthening our state’s economy. 

Innovation moves much more quickly than government, and it would be detrimental for outdated regulations to stand in the way of advancing these lifesaving technologies. That is why my legislation directs the Department of Transportation to modernize existing federal motor vehicle safety standards that were written long before self-driving vehicles were ever envisioned. Instead of steering wheels and brake pedals operated by humans, self-driving vehicles will be operated by artificial intelligence systems. We need to create updated standards to ensure these ground-breaking systems are operating safely and securely.  

Finally, the legislation promotes consumer education to encourage adoption of self-driving vehicles. Beyond their lifesaving potential, self-driving vehicles open up new mobility options to underserved populations like elderly and disabled Americans, and my legislation ensures that licenses to operate fully autonomous vehicles cannot be denied on the basis of a disability. In order to fully unlock the lifesaving potential of self-driving vehicles, consumers must be able to use them effectively. That’s why my legislation will also advance the creation of guidelines for responsible consumer education and marketing so consumers thoroughly understand the capabilities and limitations of their vehicle’s driving system. 

Building on our rich automotive history, Michigan is once again poised to lead the next revolution in transportation. We are facing stiff competition from other states and other countries to be the world leader in developing the next big thing in vehicle innovation. My bipartisan bill takes important steps to help bring self-driving vehicles to our roads. But it will require all of Michigan’s assets—from our universities and testing facilities to our manufacturers, suppliers and government—working together to keep Michigan at the forefront of this emerging technology.

About the Author

U.S. Senator Gary Peters

As a Senator representing Michigan and the Motor City, Senator Gary Peters is focused on promoting innovation in the American auto industry that will revolutionize the future of mobility. Peters serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where he works to support advanced vehicle technologies that will make vehicles safer, smarter and more efficient. Peters also founded the bipartisan Smart Transportation Caucus to inform lawmakers and encourage the development and use of next-generation technologies that will reshape our transportation system for the 21st century. Peters also serves on the Homeland Security Committee where he works on efforts to enhance cybersecurity and protecting privacy in an increasingly connected world.


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