DETROIT—Waymo, the autonomous vehicle sister company of Google, plans to invest up to $13.6 million and hire up to 400 in Michigan to expand its operations that work with auto makers to integrate its self-driving technology.
The company, which employs 20 and operates a 53,000-sq.-ft. office in Novi, is seeking 200,000 square feet of light manufacturing space to work with auto makers on integrating its self-driving technology in Southeast Michigan, according to a memo from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
A specific location has not yet been identified, a representative from the MEDC said in an email. A Waymo spokesperson told Automotive News the company would likely look to repurpose an existing space rather than build a new facility.
The project involves a partnership with auto supplier Magna International to integrate Waymo's autonomous vehicle technology into the company's expanding test fleet. Magna has a similar autonomous vehicle partnership with ride hailing service Lyft, in which it will integrate self-driving systems on fully autonomous vehicles for Lyft. Magna's U.S. headquarters is in Troy.
"As we begin to commercialize our business and vehicle supply grows, we're laying the foundation for a scalable, robust vehicle integration plan, starting in Michigan," Waymo said in a statement.
Waymo plans to move into the space by the middle of this year, company executives said, and the program is expected to be operational by 2024.
The project is supported by an $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, the MEDC said in a statement. 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.
MichAuto, the automotive economic development division of the Detroit Regional Chamber, is also supporting the project by elevating Waymo's status in the nonprofit to a higher tier, an upgrade worth $25,000, according to the MEDC memo.
Waymo started testing vehicles in Michigan in 2017 after buying 100 plug-in hybrid minivans from FCA US L.L.C. to expand its self-driving vehicle testing program. The program has ordered approximately 100,000 vehicles for its fleet, including 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace CUVs.
The vehicles are not offered for sale to the public and are used for testing.
Waymo may be expanding testing in Michigan because its vehicles have been the target of harassment from residents in other states where they are being tested, such as Arizona.
Now Waymo, the self-driving company with more vehicles on public roads than any other competitor, is helping to entrench Michigan's role in producing vehicles of the future.
"Auto manufacturing has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state, and built an economic engine that fuel the entire country," Waymo said in a statement. "We'll be looking for engineers, operations experts, and fleet coordinators to join our team and help assemble and deploy our self-driving cars."
Pete Bigelow of Automotive News contributed to this article.