Waymo's cars will be so-called Level 4 autonomous vehicles, equipped with hardware and software allowing the cars to drive themselves without the assistance of a human operator as they follow mapped-out routes in strictly defined areas.
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. Krafcik said Waymo had been looking for something it could get up and running by mid-2019, and the axle facility is the ideal place. A Hamtramck Review report suggests the closure has been tied to a protracted dispute with the United Auto Workers union. Following a 2008 strike, the company moved its operations to Mexico where it employs 2,700 workers.
What form the self-driving cars will take when they enter mass production is also unclear.
When the facility opens, some of the self-driving technology that will be implemented into the fleet of vehicles will include LIDAR, cameras, radar, and passenger screens. The following chart from the Society of Automotive Engineers shows the different driver requirements and vehicle features at each of six automation levels.
GM has produced "near Level 4" Chevy Bolts for test purposes at its Orion Assembly Plant.
"We wanted this facility o benefit from a location in southeast Michigan-the heart of the American automotive industry - and its strong talent base", the post reads.
The company said the new Detroit facility should be operations by mid-2019.
Waymo is preparing to launch a commercial ride-hailing service in Arizona using a fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs, which will be outfitted at the American Axle plant.
The space will be the American Axle and Manufacturing plant off I-75. The firm would look to help define the future of the automotive industry in Detroit, where it had started.