New facility will host development of autonomous Chrysler Pacificas.
Google is taking a step forward with its self-driving car project, and is opening a new research facility in Metro Detroit.
The 53,000 square-foot facility in Novi, Michigan, will be Google’s first official home in the state for developing autonomous technology. Though Google says it has had employees in the state already -- Google's existing self-driving prototypes were built in Michigan by Roush -- the company says “it’s time to lay down roots.”
The facility’s location will allow Google to have a close connection with other automotive suppliers near Detroit, and the tech giant is also hinting that it will be able to hire “Michigan’s top talent in vehicle development and engineering.” Until now, most of Google’s work on self-driving cars has taken place in California, though prototype cars are already also on the road in Texas, Washington, and Arizona.
In the immediate future, the new Google facility will work with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as the two companies develop 100 prototype self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. Under that agreement, FCA will work on developing the vehicle, while Google will integrate its sensors and software into the minivan. It remains to be see whether the new location in southeast Michigan will prompt Google to forge partnerships with other automakers in the area.
Google says it will be moving into the Novi facility over the rest of this year. Michigan is already home to a test track specifically designed for autonomous cars, called Mcity, with artificial urban streets.