More and more automakers looking to develop their autonomous vehicles are finding their way to Michigan, and now add Waymo to the list. The Google spinoff plans to produce robot cars at a to-be-determined location in southeast Michigan.
The company has been testing its self-driving vehicles largely in the southwest, and had planned to find a cold weather state (i.e. a state with snow) to continue testing. However, this plant will be the first-ever site to churn out Level 4 autonomous vehicles.
“Waymo will first identify a facility in Southeast Michigan and, over the next few years, aim to create hundreds of local jobs in the community,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll be looking for engineers, operations experts and fleet coordinators to join our team and help assemble and deploy our self-driving cars.”
Waymo, which already has partnerships with Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar to produce vehicles, claims this new site is not in conflict with those two deals.
(Waymo kicks off autonomous taxi and ride-sharing service. Click Here for the story.)
“Waymo develops hardware and software in-house so that our full self-driving technology works as a seamless, single system,” Alexis Georgeson, a Waymo spokesperson, told the Detroit Free Press.
“A vital part of that process is integrating our self-driving system into the vehicles we purchase for our fleet, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover. Integration of the Waymo Driver will happen at our new Michigan facility with our existing OEM partners and vehicles.”
The company is searching for a 200,000 square-foot plant space with room for expansion, according to a memo from the Michigan Business Development Program. The plant will have somewhere between 100 and 400 employees, depending upon the scope of work and will call for a $13.6 million investment by Waymo.
(Click Here for more about Waymo testing in California.)
Coming to southeast Michigan makes plenty of sense for Waymo as it will be partnering with megasupplier Magna on the development and production of these new, self-driving vehicles. Magna’s produced vehicles for other companies, including Fiat Chrysler and BMW.
Aside from the ability to test in a cold-weather environment, currently there are several unused auto factories that may be available for purchase. In fact, General Motors is adding two more to those ranks in the near term.
GM spokesman Pat Morrissey told the Free Press that “any discussion on the status of the plant beyond the build-out of the current products is a matter discussed in UAW-GM negotiations.” The UAW would be happy to help Waymo find a plant in southeast Michigan, according to Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the UAW, including GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck site.
(To see more about the “lack of trust” in self-driving tech, Click Here.)
“Our focus is to leave no stone unturned to keep the Hamtramck plant open,” Rothenberg told the paper.