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Waymo to manufacture self-driving cars in Detroit

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The Google affiliate will redevelop the former American Axle & Manufacturing facility for $13.6 million

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Google has chosen the Motor City as the manufacturing base for its self-driving automobile affiliate, Waymo. The company announced the news in a post on Medium, saying it will locate the factory at the former American Axle & Manufacturing plant near Hamtramck.

Waymo has an ambitious open date of mid-2019. Crain’s Detroit Business reports that the redevelopment will cost $13.6 million.

The facility is estimated to be up to 200,000 square feet and create up to 400 jobs, and that the factory will outfit Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Jaguar i-Pace electric cars.

According to the company, it will be “the world’s first factory 100 percent dedicated to the mass production of L4 autonomous vehicles.” L4 refers to “Level 4” automation (out of a possible five), meaning the vehicle is capable of operating without human input in select areas, but will likely require oversight everywhere else.

Last year, the company made an initial announcement that it would be opening a factory in Southeast Michigan, which is in many ways still the heart of the automobile industry. Numerous OEMs operate here, as well as several testing grounds, including the American Center for Mobility, a 335-acre facility at Willow Run.

It’s clear the state had been trying to lure the company to Michigan. Waymo is receiving substantial subsidies for the project, including an $8 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. According to Crain’s,

[T]he project is supported by a $2 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund that covers the first 100 jobs—about $20,000 each—upon signing a lease for no less than three years. Waymo could then qualify for $20,000 for each new job at the site up to 400 new jobs or an additional $6 million in grants.

Waymo’s news follows on the heels of General Motors’s announcement that it would be closing its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and laying off hundreds of workers.

This is a fast developing story, so stay-tuned for updates.