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A Ford Fusion equipped with Level 4 Autonomous controls maneuvers at the Mcity Test Facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Photo: JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Michigan’s term-limited governor, Rick Snyder, has negotiated AV research partnerships with the governments of four countries—China, the U.K., the Netherlands and Australia—and two key auto-making regions in Canada and Europe.

Why it matters: Snyder wants to position Michigan as the convening authority when it comes to harmonizing global standards for self-driving cars. By luring foreign entities to conduct and share research in Michigan he's pushing back against the notion that California is the epicenter of autonomous vehicle development.

"The more we can come up with common standards between different parts of the world, and share data on what’s improving safety... it will cause adoption of autonomous vehicles to go faster and better."
— Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

The details: The agreements to collaborate on automotive research are intended to accelerate the commercialization of new mobility technologies and harmonize global policies, regulations and standards.

  • Simply using the same testing protocols will make it easier to learn from one another, Snyder told me.
  • While each country is unique—China's roads have more bikes and U.K. cars drive on the left side of the road—sharing lessons and best practices from diverse environments will lead to consistent safety standards around the world, he said.

Background: Michigan, specifically Detroit, is the traditional home of the U.S. auto industry, but with the advent of autonomous driving technology, the center of gravity appears to have shifted to Silicon Valley.

  • Michigan has aggressively fought back against that perception, with new initiatives like Planet M, a state-run organization that woos mobility startups, investors and research pilots by connecting them to the state's existing automotive ecosystem.
  • The state is also home to some of the leading test facilities for autonomous vehicles, including the sprawling American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti and MCity on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.
  • There's an emerging mobility research corridor between Ann Arbor and Detroit, which includes the future headquarters of Ford's autonomous vehicles division in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood.

The bottom line: By inviting other countries to test their AVs in Michigan, share research and sculpt policies, Michigan aims to assert itself as the leader in the future of transportation.

Go deeper: AVs need a common language to tell us what they're doing (John Shutko —Axios Expert Voices)

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The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

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