Waymo picks Detroit factory to build self-driving cars

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle technology startup under Alphabet, is setting up shop in a Detroit factory on American Axle & Manufacturing’s campus.

Waymo said Tuesday it will partner with American Axle & Manufacturing to repurpose the existing facility, which was most recently used as a sequencing center for a local parts supplier. The goal is to begin moving into the facility by mid-2019 and begin preparing the site for manufacturing Level 4 autonomous vehicles. Level 4 is a designation by SAE that means the vehicle handles all of the driving under certain conditions.

“By choosing to establish its new facility in Detroit, Waymo is continuing the city’s momentum and further cementing Michigan as a leader in mobility and the epicenter of advanced automotive manufacturing,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.

In January, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation voted to approve Waymo’s plan to set up a manufacturing facility in the state to build its self-driving vehicles. The MEDC approved an $8 million grant for the project.

Waymo has partnered with Magna to build thousands of self-driving cars at the factory, including autonomous versions of the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, in a bid to deploy its ride-hailing service at scale.

In December, Waymo launched a limited commercial robotaxi service in the Phoenix area, dubbed Waymo One.

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