GM CEO Mary Barra said this week that her firm will begin to test autonomous vehicles in Michigan “immediately,” according to Fortune. Michigan, long home of the auto industry, may soon become a giant proving ground for autonomous vehicles, thanks to new regulations that will enable automakers to test self-driving cars there.
And, better yet, Barra said GM will be a leader in the autonomous driving space, starting by manufacturing autonomous vehicles next year at the Orion Township plant. “We expect GM will become the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass production assembly plant,” Barra said.
Other companies have autonomous programs, just look at Tesla for example, but they aren’t yet able to build cars at the scale that GM can. In fact, that’s why companies like Apple and Google may have recently shifted their focus in autonomous vehicles, leaving the actual manufacturing legwork to the companies that already have the know-how. Tesla’s Gigafactory may help in the future, but now it sounds like GM is going to get in on the mass market development of autonomous vehicles even sooner. Shipments of the Tesla Model 3, for example, the first “affordable” Tesla, are already slipping into 2018.
No more roadblocks
Automakers have faced regulation roadblocks in other states, and only a handful allow them to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. In this case, Michigan is granting automakers the ability to go all-out, event testing cars without “steering wheels, pedals or needed human control,” Fortune said. Other locations require a driver to be behind the wheel and other regulations. The laws are meant to keep us regular folks safe, but they also can inhibit the research required to take autonomous cars mainstream.
This is a major boon for the auto industry, especially as the traditional car-makers compete with fresh competitors such as Tesla and some foreign car-makers (Volvo) that may have a leg up with autonomous testing. Just watch out for those autonomous vehicles… some of them run red lights.