(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Google's driverless car is critical to the future of the auto industry.
"They took me out on a California freeway, and showed me how it worked," Snyder said this morning at Michigan Robotics Day in Ann Arbor.
"When you're sitting in that vehicle, you can see how it's analyzing all these decisions much like you would as a normal driver. And it's able to do it faster and better than many of us could as human drivers."
Google has said it wants to introduce a driverless vehicle for sale within three to five years. Right now, it's in on-road testing.
Major automakers are pursuing a variety of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technologies. But experts say it could be decades before a completely driverless car hits the road.
Michigan lawmakers would have to approve autonomous vehicle licensing procedures, allowing automakers to test technologies on public roads.
California and Nevada last year became the first states to implement similar laws, and Snyder said Michigan could fall behind without its own regulations.
"That's why I think it's important for Michigan to be a leader in this and that's why we should move forward quickly," he said.
Phil Callihan, executive director of the Ann Arbor-based National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, said the Legislature could approve autonomous vehicle licensing as soon as this week. NCMS co-sponsored the Michigan Robotics Day with the University of Michigan.
Officials said autonomous vehicle research provides collaborative opportunities that could create Michigan jobs.
"Michigan has a golden opportunity to be the launching pad of these collaborations," NCMS CEO Rick Jarman said.
Snyder said people need to realize that autonomous vehicles will still have a driver ready to take the wheel at a moment's notice.
"I don't see why there should be a lot of obstacles, period," he said. "It's more communicating to the public about their fears and concerns about having an autonomous vehicle driving around."