Waymo has billed its project as the "world's first factory 100 percent dedicated to the mass production of L4 autonomous vehicles." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, citing the Society of Automotive Engineers, lists Level 4 as high automation, one step below full automation.
"The vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions. The driver may have the option to control the vehicle," according to the definition of Level 4.
GM has produced "near Level 4" Chevy Bolts for test purposes at its Orion Assembly Plant.
'Center of the auto industry'
Krafcik thanked a range of individuals and entities for their assistance in the location effort, including Mayor Mike Duggan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, former Gov. Rick Snyder, American Axle and even Dan Gilbert's Bedrock development company.
Both Duggan and Whitmer were quoted in Krafcik's piece. Duggan said the "announcement by Waymo shows that the city of Detroit remains at the center of the future of the auto industry" and Whitmer noted that "Waymo is continuing the city's momentum and further cementing Michigan as a leader in mobility and the epicenter of advanced automotive manufacturing."
Krafcik cited metro Detroit's automotive industry strengths as a key reason for focusing on the area.
"We wanted this facility to benefit from a location in southeast Michigan -- the heart of the American automotive industry -- and its strong talent base. We began looking for a facility that would allow us to quickly get up and running by mid-2019 while offering us the flexibility to continue to grow and expand our operations in Michigan over time and where there was a strong pool of talent across engineering, operations and fleet coordination," Krafcik wrote.
He noted that "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 factory will add to Waymo's presence and connections in southeast Michigan and nearby Ontario. Waymo has about 20 employees in the Novi area and a partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which supplies Windsor-made Chrysler Pacifica minivans.