Waymo has chosen the Motor City to produce its future self-driving cars. Google's self-driving car subsidiary announced in a blog post on Tuesday it has selected Detroit as the home for future vehicle production.
In the announcement, Waymo said it was fully aware Detroit remains the "heart of the American auto industry," and it plans to bring jobs back to the area. Waymo didn't say how many jobs the new facility will provide, but reiterated it will bring a workforce back to the city, which has recently seen further cuts.
Waymo self-driving car
The comment is likely a subtle jab at General Motors, which announced plans to idle the Detroit-Hamtramck plant last November. The plant was scheduled to go offline this summer but the production of two cars will continue through January 2020. The Chevrolet Volt and Buick LaCrosse have ended production at the facility, but the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 will remain in production for a short while longer.
Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo will lease its facility through a partnership with American Axle & Manufacturing. Waymo said the site will be repurposed for its needs and the area provides the ability to attract strong talent in engineering, operations, and fleet coordination. It also gives the company enough room to expand its Michigan operations over time. Waymo will also receive incentives through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a public-private organization.
Waymo self-driving prototype
Waymo is often regarded as the leading player in the self-driving car segment. It currently operates the first self-driving ride-sharing service in a small area of Arizona. Riders are screened and approved before they are able to hail a Waymo autonomous car; the service is not open to the public yet. Each rider pays a fare similar in price to an Uber or Lyft while the car drives itself to the destination. A human remains onboard as a safety driver should anything go wrong.
Waymo's current fleet is made up of Chrysler Pacifica minivans that it retrofits with self-driving equipment. Starting in 2021, Waymo will begin using Jaguar I-Pace electric crossover SUVs for its fleet. The new facility will likely be dedicated to readying these vehicles for self-driving duties.
The company said the new Detroit facility should be operations by mid-2019.