Michigan, United Kingdom team up to address autonomy

The partnership will focus on fleshing out rules and ideas and shouldn't bump up against any federal regulations.

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Usually, you hear about collaborations between governments of different countries. This time, though, a foreign country has partnered up with just a single state for a pretty important topic.

The State of Michigan and the United Kingdom have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see businesses and agencies from both sides of the pond collaborate on vehicle autonomy, the Financial Times reports.

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It's very early in this partnership -- like, it's days old at most. It won't bear fruit for a while, most likely.

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The partnership will focus on developing rules for self-driving cars and ideas about how to integrate autonomy into society. "We have to understand it it's not about us versus them, but about partnership and collaboration," said Rick Snyder, Michigan's governor, in an interview with the Financial Times. "We need to embrace a broader network ... Britain is a place of core competency in this field."

It's unclear just how deep this partnership will run, and how it will align with federal guidelines for the development and deployment of self-driving cars. Last September, the Trump administration unveiled its revised guidelines for autonomous vehicles, but this is largely a set of non-enforceable ideas that help delineate responsibilities between federal and state regulators.

It's likely the state-specific space in which Michigan will work most closely with the UK. Under the current Department of Transportation guidelines, state governments have responsibility over the nitty-gritty details, like insurance, licensing and inspections. The feds retain oversight over safety, design and public education.

The UK saw its first autonomous car enter public testing in late 2016, but that was a slow little contraption designed more to measure interactions between self-driving vehicles and pedestrians. Automakers are slowly getting in on the action, as well, as Jaguar Land Rover is working on a SAE Level 4 autonomous system in the UK as we speak. 

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