Waymo has chosen an existing American Axle facility in southeast Michigan as a spot for upgrading cars with Level 4 self-driving capability.
Waymo is a stand-alone subsidiary of Alphabet Inc and a former self-driving project of Google. The company had been scouting locations in Michigan, but until now it had not named a specific city to bring its operations to.
John Kracik of Alphabet Inc. announced in a blog post on Tuesday that the Waymos were indeed coming to the birth place of Ford Motor Company. The Waymo CEO elaborated their decision: ’We wanted this facility to benefit from a location in southeast Michigan – the heart of the American automotive industry – and its strong talent base…and where there was a strong pool of talent across engineering, operations and fleet coordination.’
Kracik shared that Waymo would lease and re-purpose an existing facility of American Axle & Manufacturing in Detroit. The chosen location is a former sequencing center for a local parts supplier. American Axle stopped production in the same place in 2012.
There had been some talking that Waymo would pick the soon-to-be-available Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant of General Motors, but Waymo has settled with the smaller installation of the Tier 1 supplier company at the end.
The purpose of this works is to equip Chrysler Pacifica hybrids and all-electric Jaguar I-Pace cars with the hardware and software required for Level 4 autonomous driving. Waymo sees the upgrade facility as starting point to the world’s first factory that is 100%-dedicated to the mass production of L4 autonomous vehicles.
By definition, an L4 autonomous car is a vehicle that is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions. The driver may have the option to control the vehicle. This category is one-step below the full automation.
Kracik expressed hope that the conversions meant for Waymo’s own robotaxi service would be up and running this year. The project brings 100 new jobs to the once magnificent Motor City at first, but probably more will follow.
For the project Alphabet Inc. had requested $8 million through Michigan Business Development Program. MEDC approved the grant.
Waymo has been operating a limited robotaxi service, Waymo One, in Phoenix, Arizona, since last December.