Self-driving cars are closer than ever to becoming a reality. Once the stuff of science fiction, autonomous vehicles are now big business, with companies from both the automotive and tech sectors throwing their hats into the ring. But less glamorously, it's also the stuff of legislation, with state and local governments deciding the limits to which this technology will be accessible.
And now a rather symbolic package of proposed bills illustrates the promise and potential profits that the autonomous car industry will be bringing...and sooner, rather than later.
Michigan is the historic home of America's automotive industry, with its largest city, Detroit, headquartering some of the biggest names in vehicles. And the biggest of these big names -- General Motors (GM) - Get Report , Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) - Get Report , and Ford (F) - Get Report (also referred to as the "Big Three") -- are among the top names exploring the self-driving car space.
These savvy companies are quickly establishing alliances with technology-based companies to speed up the development of autonomous vehicles. In January, General Motors announced a $500 million partnership with the Lyft ride-sharing service to work on testing the technology, also purchasing self-driving car startup Cruise Automation for more than $1 billion along the way.
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And Ford is currently testing its fleet of 30 autonomous Fusion Hybrid vehicles.
And now, in Michigan, a bipartisan team of lawmakers has introduced a package of bills that would go beyond the state's current allowance for testing self-driving vehicles. One of the surest ways for investors to make money is to tap into accelerating trends and the autonomous vehicle industry fits the bill.
Currently, the state is one of seven in the U.S. that have laws pertaining to companies testing self-driving vehicles. But the newly proposed bills would open the technology up to a more important audience: the consumer. Under these proposals, fully autonomous cars would soon become "street legal" on public roads -- without any human control whatsoever. The bills would also allow the public sale of these hands-free vehicles. And the Detroit Three, as well as other carmakers, would be allowed to operate on-demand networks of autonomous vehicles (this is where ride-sharing service partnerships will come in handy and be profitable).
Michigan is positioning itself at the front of the race for autonomous vehicles. And while "sexy" manufacturers such as Tesla Motors (TSLA) - Get Report grab headlines, the classic car companies are lining up as well.
With strategic partnerships, long histories of manufacturing vehicles, and now the potential for friendly legislation, these are the companies that stand to net the biggest shares of the autonomous vehicle market. And with self-driving cars rolling their way onto public streets within the next few years, investors won't have a long time to wait for some massive profits.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.