Waymo Picks Detroit Plant for Self-driving Vehicle Conversions

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
waymo picks detroit plant for self driving vehicle conversions

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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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Apr 23, 2019

    When did this sudden leap by Tesla and Waymo escalate to Level 4 autonomous by next year? Musk is full of it anyway, and Waymo vehicles are granniemobiles whose main capability will be seeking out STOP and YIELD signs, then pondering mightily on that new knowledge - "Hey, that bus hit ME while I was stopped!".

  • Kruser Kruser on Apr 24, 2019

    A year ago, a story on this site regarding autonomous driving vehicles would attract a few comments along the lines of, "This will never happen in my lifetime..." I for one, can't wait to get my father and mother-in-law out from behind the steering wheel.

  • Tailpipe Tommy Ask Tyler Hoover, Jason Cammisa, Joe Raiti, Sreten @ M539 Restorations (he's really spectacular), and oh yeah, that Doug DeMuro cat. For better or worse, automotive journalism has moved to YouTube.
  • Ajla A lot of journos liked to sh*t on the NAG1 but I never had an issue with its performance and the forums don't really show it as a trouble spot by the time it got into these. It probably needed just a touch shorter gearing in base form (I think the Magnum offered that on a tow package and the Charger offered it with a performance package or Daytona trim).
  • Fahrvergnugen NA Miata goes topless as long as roads are dry and heater is running, windscreen in place.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic As a side note, have you looked at a Consumers Report lately? In the past, they would compare 3 or 4 station wagons, or compact SUVs, or sedans per edition. Now, auto reporting is reduced to a report on one single vehicle in the entire edition. I guess CR realized that cars are not as important as they once were.
  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
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