On Jan. 22 Waymo announced that its plans to manufacturing in Michigan are one step closer to reality.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation voted to approve the company’s plans to build a 200, 000 square foot manufacturing plant in the state.
The company currently has a presence in Michigan as they are working on outfitting Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans with Waymo technology. "A vital part of that process is integrating our self-driving system into the vehicles we purchase for our fleet, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover,” said Waymo in its company blog.
Targeting a facility in Southeast Michigan to become the “world’s first factory 100%-dedicated to the mass production of L4 autonomous vehicles” over the next few years, the company said it will hire engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators. The company said it hopes to hire up to 400 employees over the next five years.
Finding employees specific to their industry shouldn’t be a problem as several Michigan universities have established their own advanced-vehicle testing, research and technology facilities. In 2017, the American Center for Mobility (ACM) announced it was partnering with 15 Michigan colleges and universities to establish the Academic Consortium at ACM, which will create additional educational pathways for students to learn how to support automated-vehicle testing and implementation.
Some of the programs include:
--Mcity sits on a 32-acre site on the University of Michigan’s North Campus and features about 16 acres of roads and traffic infrastructure with intersections, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, simulated buildings, streetlights and obstacles, such as construction barriers. Mcity’s researchers also are developing new testing approaches, such as augmented reality scenarios and accelerated-testing procedures.
--Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center at the Houghton County Airpark in the Upper Peninsula provides computer modeling and four-season vehicle testing that includes endurance, durability, handling and mobility. Michigan Tech is one of eight universities, including Michigan State University, participating in the AutoDrive Challenge this spring, where college students from its robotics group design, build and test a fully autonomous vehicle.
--Kettering University GM Mobility Research Center in Flint once housed General Motor’s Chevrolet division. Now, the 21-acre track and testing site has a 3.25-acre customizable test pad.
Ensuring that a robust supply chain is in place, the company has partnered with Magna to help integrate its self-driving system into its fleet of different vehicles, with a team hired exclusively for working on Waymo’s products. Magna, along with Continental AG, partnered in 2017 to test connected- and automated-vehicle technology on a 300-mile drive that culminated in border crossings between Michigan and Canada.
The combination of test facilities, talent and a robust supply chain has been part of Michigan’s strategic plan to ensure that its strong auto business continues as the industry changes. And by approving Waymo's plan, it looks like that plan continues to pay off.