Waymo to Set Up a Factory in Michigan

Waymo, the former Google self-driving project owned by parent company Alphabet, plan to set up a manufacturing facility in Michigan to transform vehicles into autonomous cars for Waymo’s ride services business. In December, Waymo launched a limited commercial robotaxi service in the Phoenix area, called Waymo One.

The first cars produced will be autonomous versions of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan and Jaguar’s I-PACE electric SUV. The project is supported by an $8 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The new facility would be dedicated to mass production of L4 or level 4 autonomous vehicles which can pilot themselves without a human driver under certain conditions. Level 4 capability permits a vehicle to drive itself without a human driver on board in certain limited conditions. Typically, it involves operating within a specified geofenced area with extensive digital maps available to the self-driving computer built into each car.

The location has not been determined, except that it will be in southeast Michigan. This will likely be an existing facility, and not a new build. The factory will create up to 400 new jobs, and build thousands of self-driving cars including autonomous versions of the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. Magna, a major auto supplier and engineering company, is partnering with Waymo exclusively for its vehicles’ modification including the integration of high-powered computers, laser lidar, radar, cameras and interior display panels and passenger amenities before they go into service.

The Waymo One self-driving car service still has Waymo-trained test drivers behind the wheel. The safety driver will eventually be removed from the vehicle and the service will slowly open up to more people throughout 2019.

In October, Waymo was granted the first permit in California to begin driverless testing on public roads. Currently, 62 companies have valid permits to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver on California public roadways. Only Waymo has a permit for driverless testing.