Whether we’re psychologically ready for it or not, the next phase of automotive mobility will come in the form of self-driving vehicles. From Ford’s commitment to its new Corktown campus to GM’s $100 million plan to roll out self-driving Chevy Volts, to the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run, it’s clear that Michigan is poised to lead in the newest vehicle revolution. Now comes an announcement that Waymo also intends to establish a manufacturing facility in the Motor City.
Formerly known as the Google self-driving car project, Waymo’s early roots began in 2009 when Google used the Toyota Prius as its test vehicle and set out to drive autonomously over ten uninterrupted 100-mile routes. The project was so successful that it led to other vehicles and other more complex routes.
In 2016, what was once an experiment, turned into a spinoff company called Waymo, which is entirely focused on self-driving technology. In May of that year, the company announced it would be opening a 53,000-square-foot development center in Novi, Michigan. That small engineering operation currently employs twenty people.
Now Waymo intends to retrofit a factory in Metro Detroit to install self-driving hardware on Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and Jaguar i-Pace electric cars. The exact location of the facility is yet to be determined.
In a blog post announcing the expansion the company stated, “The Great Lakes State is one we already know and love, with a talented workforce and excellent snowy conditions for our cars to test. Our local engineers are already hard at work outfitting our Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans with Waymo technology, and now we’re looking forward to expanding our roots.”
The newly-planned facility is expected to generate total private investment of $13.6 million and create 100, with the potential for up to 400, jobs. It is made possible, in part, by a Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant of up to $8 million, according to a news release by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.