It’s official: Waymo is opening an autonomous vehicle factory in Motor City.
Or to be totally accurate, Waymo is building a factory to turn regular ol’ dumb cars into smart autonomous cars. Months after announcing that it was bringing its self-driving car operation to Michigan, the company said on Tuesday that it would be opening a repurposed factory in Detroit. In selecting the facility, at which Waymo will mass manufacture level 4 autonomous vehicles, the company said it had sought out a location that would not only allow for future growth but “would allow us to quickly get up and running by mid-2019.”
“We’re thrilled to join Detroit’s vibrant community, helping to play a role in the future of the automotive industry in the city that started it all,” the company said.
The Alphabet subsidiary offered surprisingly few details about the project in a blog about the news, and Waymo avoided our specific questions in an email when asked for comment. However, citing a Michigan Economic Development Corporation memo, the Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday that Waymo’s operation brings “at least 100 jobs with a potential for 400 jobs and a capital investment of $13.6 million.”
In a separate blog post in January—after the MEDC approved an $8 million grant for its autonomous car operation—Waymo said that it would be hiring for a range of positions, including roles in operations and engineering as well as fleet coordination. Waymo also said at the time that it would be partnering with manufacturing company Magna International on bringing its self-driving technology to “our fleet of different vehicles,” which includes vehicles from Jaguar Land Rovers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the latter of which is responsible for Waymo’s uglier-than-sin Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
In a statement about the news, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement that the company “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.”
Waymo announced in late 2017 that is was bringing the aforementioned heinous minivans to Detroit with the purpose of mastering the area’s harsh winters, as navigating conditions like snow can be tricky for the sensors necessary for autonomous vehicles to “see.” Prior to that, its testing was limited to sunnier, flatter regions like Califonia and Pheonix, Arizona, where it launched its autonomous taxi service Waymo One in December.
Those climates are considerably easier to navigate, though. Testing its self-driving technology in Detroit’s gnarly winters, Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik wrote at the time, “will give us the opportunity to assess the way our sensors perform in wet, cold conditions. And it will also build on the advanced driving skills we’ve developed over the last eight years by teaching our cars how to handle things like skidding on icy, unplowed roads.”
Here’s to hoping Waymo receives a warmer welcome in Detroit than it did from the rock-throwing, tire-slashing Arizonans.