Waymo has been testing its self-driving cars in Michigan's crap-tier weather since late 2017, but now, it's ready to establish a larger presence in the state responsible for Sufjan Stevens' second-best album.
Waymo announced in a Medium post on Tuesday that it has received approval to set up a manufacturing facility in Michigan. The factory will be responsible for adding Waymo's self-driving hardware to regular vehicles in Waymo's fleet. Right now, the fleet is limited to Chrysler Pacifica minivans, but it's expanding to include electric Jaguar I-Paces, too.
The spinoff of Google's parent company Alphabet doesn't have a specific plot of land in mind yet, but that's the first thing it needs to do. After that, it'll search out engineers, fleet coordinators and hundreds of other jobs to stock its facility. At that point, Waymo will have what it claims to be the world's first factory dedicated to churning out Level 4 autonomous vehicles.
"In the US, the auto industry is synonymous with Michigan. Auto manufacturing has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state and built an economic engine that helps fuel the entire country," Waymo's team wrote in its Medium post. "The Great Lakes State is one we already know and love, with a talented workforce and excellent snowy conditions for our cars to test."
Waymo's ultimate goal is to extend its commercial self-driving service to as many people as possible. Waymo One has already launched in Phoenix, offering autonomous rides within a large geofenced chunk of Arizona's capital city. Our own Tim Stevens took a ride, and it turned out to be a largely smooth experience.