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Waymo plans final assembly on self-driving cars in Detroit

Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

DETROIT -- Waymo has picked Detroit for final assembly of its self-driving vehicles.

The company, once known as Google's self-driving car project and now a leader in the push to develop autonomous vehicles, had previously said it was scouting locations in southeast Michigan but did not name a specific city.

CEO John Krafcik revealed Detroit as the company's choice in a blog post scheduled to publish Tuesday titled, "Making Waymos in Motor City." It refers to being "up and running" this year.

"Today, we're excited to announce that we've found the perfect facility in Detroit. 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," according to the post.

A company spokeswoman said the Detroit facility will be where the company integrates Waymo's self-driving hardware and software systems into Chrysler Pacificas and Jaguar I-Paces for its commercial ride-hailing fleet.

A Michigan Economic Development Corp. memo had said the project would involve the creation of at least 100 jobs with a potential for 400 jobs and a capital investment of $13.6 million. Waymo, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., Google's parent, had requested an $8 million Michigan Business Development Program grant.

 

Waymo is to lease and repurpose an existing facility on the American Axle and Manufacturing campus on Holbrooke where American Axle has its world headquarters, Detroit Business office and Advanced Technology Development Center. The company notes that it ended production of front axles there in 2012.

The location was most recently being used as sequencing center for a local parts supplier, and American Axle recently moved back into the facility with business operations in the administrative portion of the building, according to the company.

Chris Son, American Axle vice president of marketing and communications, said in a statement that "we are excited to partner with Waymo and be a part of bringing future automotive technology to our Detroit campus."

There had been some speculation that General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, which is scheduled to be idled in 2020, could be in play, although that offered considerably more space than the 200,000 square feet Waymo was seeking. In addition, GM's Cruise unit is in competition with Waymo on self-driving vehicle development.

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