Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit is to build a plant in southeast Michigan dedicated to transforming vehicles into autonomous cars, the company has announced.
The new facility will be dedicated to mass production of level 4 autonomous vehicles, which can pilot themselves without a human driver under certain conditions, and will be the first such factory in the world, according to Waymo.
“In the US, the auto industry is synonymous with Michigan. Auto manufacturing has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state and built an economic engine that helps fuel the entire country. Today, Waymo is excited to announce that we’ll grow our business in Michigan, as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation [MEDC] voted to approve our effort to establish our manufacturing presence to build our self-driving vehicles in the state, creating hundreds of jobs along the way,” Waymo announced in a Medium post.
The vehicles will be used for Waymo’s ride-hailing services business, and the company is planning to work with auto supplier Magna International to install the Waymo self-driving system in vehicles manufactured by others.
“Waymo develops hardware and software in-house so that our self-driving technology works as a seamless, single system. 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,” Waymo revealed.
At the facility, for which it is yet to identify a location, Waymo plans to hire engineers, operations experts, fleet coordinators and other professionals. The company expects to create between 100 and 400 jobs. In addition to private investments of US$13.6m, it has attracted US$8m in funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the equivalent of US$20,000 in state aid per job if the project hits the 400-employee target.
GM and Ford have also said they will build autonomous vehicles at Michigan factories.