A package of four bills that allow fully autonomous testing in Michigan were approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate on Thursday.

The bills make it legal for fully autonomous cars to drive without a driver inside and open up 122 miles of public road for testing. The legislature also approved a plan to redevelop Willow Run airport into a test site for self-driving vehicles.

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Someone must monitor the autonomous car, but they don’t have to be inside. This provides Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing apps with the opportunity to cut the driver and have a few technicians on hand to watch for failures in the system.

Michigan has been relaxing laws on self-driving far quicker than other states, with the intention of bringing Silicon Valley dollars and jobs to the Rust Belt.

Many self-driving automakers already in Michigan

Toyota, General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and Honda are already testing autonomous vehicles or investing in autonomous projects in Michigan. Toyota also co-owns, with the other four automakers, the American Center for Mobility, the organization in charge of redeveloping the Willow Run airport into an autonomous test site.

Technology companies have been less receptive of Michigan. Uber has set up shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and both Google and Apple are sticking to San Francisco.

Bringing automotive jobs back into Detroit has been an aim of Gov. Rick Snyder, who on Thursday thanked everyone that worked on the bills for ensuring that “Michigan is the new mobility leader of the world.”

Michigan is not the only state pushing for relaxed autonomous vehicle laws, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and California have all pushed laws aimed at making it easier for companies to test self-driving vehicles.

David Curry

David Curry