Waymo Expands its Reach in Michigan
Waymo, the autonomous ride-hailing service that spun off from the Google Project now plans to expand their footprint to Michigan. Company executives are rumored to be looking for a location in the Southeast section of the state, where they have plans to hire 400 employees over the next five years. What would their jobs consist of? Installing Waymo’s self-driving systems on vehicles manufactured by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Jaguar.
Per the documents presented in court, Waymo plans to make a $13.6 million capital investment in what’s expected to be a facility as large as 200,000-square-feet. The program is scheduled to be operational by 2024, although Waymo plans to move into the space as early as this year (2019). This isn’t the tech innovator’s first foray into the state of Michigan – Waymo already has a facility with 20 employees in the Detroit suburb of Novi. The company uses this Novi facility to house vehicles used for testing under the duress of Michigan’s brutal winters and other adverse weather conditions.
Waymo’s ongoing pilot project remains in and around the area of Phoenix, Arizona for the time being. Its Early Rider Program allows for participants to access hundreds of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica vehicles for ride-hailing purposes. Waymo One, the formal name of the company’s commercial ride-hailing business, lets early riders hail autonomous vehicles – with a human driver behind the wheel for added safety – via an app similar to the likes of Uber and Lyft.
Magna, the global supplier teaming up with Waymo to integrate the autonomous systems, has plenty of experience working on autonomous-related projects. While the company has an autonomous-vehicle partnership with ride-hailing giant Lyft, its new agreement with Waymo will strictly revolved around retrofitting the vehicles with the technology. When Waymo and Magna open up their joint venture later this year, it will be on the world’s first factories dedicated strictly to the production of Level 4 autonomous vehicles. Level 4 autonomy requires no human role in the operation of a vehicle.
Waymo won’t be alone this time as Level 4 autonomous vehicles already exist in Michigan thanks to French shuttle-maker Navya, who has an assembly plant located in Saline, Michigan. Navya builds vehicles and outfits them with level 4 self-driving systems at their own assembly plant. Just because Waymo isn’t the first in the state doesn’t mean they won’t be the best at carrying out this autonomous tech assembly. Critics should keep in mind that Waymo is the self-driving company with more vehicles on public roads than any other competitor, with over 10 million miles of experience giving them a substantial edge in the autonomous driving field.
Waymo is excited to begin the next steps of their business venture, they issued a press release stating “Auto manufacturing has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state, and built an economic engine that fuel the entire country. We’ll be looking for engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators to join our team and help assemble and deploy our self-driving cars.”
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