Less than a week after Michigan legalized the testing of self-driving cars on public roads, General Motors announced plans Thursday to do just that.
GM's home state will become its third public road testing location, after San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz., according to GM CEO Mary Barra. The tests will involve a fleet of autonomous cars roaming around the Detroit area.
"By adding Michigan to our real-world testing program, we're ensuring that our AVs can operate safely across a wide range of road, weather and climate conditions, from desert heat to Great Lakes snow to crowded city streets," Barra wrote in a blog post.
Indeed, varied driving conditions are critical to training the artificial intelligence algorithms that process data from self-driving cars' sensors. Both startups and established automakers alike have developed a variety of approaches to racking up enough hours and miles to train their computers. Honda is using a mock city built in an abandoned naval weapons station in California, while Ford has invested in a startup that aims to make an AI-friendly map of every road in America. Last year, it was also the first carmaker to test autonomous vehicles at the University of Michigan's simulated urban environment, Mcity.
For its part, GM is already looking beyond the testing phase. The company also announced plans today to transform its Orion Assembly plant in Michigan into a self-driving car factory. That will make GM the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass-production assembly plant, according to Barra.
Meanwhile, Michigan is quickly becoming one of the most autonomous-car-friendly states in the U.S. The new laws that Gov. Rick Snyder signed last week allow prototype testing, fleets of autonomous shuttles, and eventually will let automakers sell autonomous vehicles to consumers.
California has also issued self-driving car permits to a number of tech firms. The state still requires a driver to be behind the wheel, though it's slowly moving towards allowing truly driverless cars on the road. One company that has reportedly run afoul of those rules, however, is Uber, which launched self-driving tests in San Francisco this week without a permit.