Waymo Picks Detroit Plant for Self-driving Vehicle Conversions

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It’s a long way from the company’s fledgling, Phoenix-area autonomous ride-hailing service, but Detroit has enough available space and local talent for Waymo to sign a lease.

On Tuesday, the self-driving tech company announced a deal to mate Chrysler Pacificas and Jaguar I-Paces with autonomous hardware in an abandoned assembly plant sitting in the heart of the domestic auto industry.

Earlier this year, the company — a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, Inc. — said it hoped to find space in southeast Michigan for mass assembly of Level 4 autonomous vehicles by the middle of the year.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve found the perfect facility in Detroit,” the company said in a Medium post. “We will partner with American Axle & Manufacturing to repurpose an existing facility, bringing a workforce back to an area where jobs in the automotive industry were recently lost.”

As reported by Automotive News, Waymo will spend $13.6 million upgrading the Holbrook Avenue campus, which ceased production in 2012. Specific terms, as well as employee count, were not discussed during the announcement.

“Today’s announcement by Waymo shows that the City of Detroit remains at the center of the future of the auto industry,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in a statement. “Waymo could have located the world’s first 100% dedicated Level 4 autonomous vehicle factory anywhere. We deeply appreciate the confidence John Krafcik and the Waymo team are showing in the Motor City.”

Other locales, of course, wouldn’t have the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and Michigan Economic Development Corporation on hand to toss incentives at the company. Not that there wouldn’t be perks regardless of where Waymo went.

The first vehicles to roll out of the Detroit plant will be Pacificas, with I-Paces joining the fray at a later date. Waymo’s taking a slow and steady approach to rolling out its autonomous vehicles, preferring a cautious path not taken by, ahem, other players (or would-be players).

[Image: Waymo]

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