Google to open self-driving car tech center in Novi

Melissa Burden, Michael Wayland and Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Google, the Silicon Valley-based tech giant, will open a self-driving car technology development center in Novi, bringing its years-long development of the technology to the heart of the traditional auto industry.

Employees will begin moving into a 53,000-square-foot location in Novi this year, John Krafcik, CEO of Google’s self-driving project said in a posting on the project’s Google+ account Wednesday. Krafcik said engineers and partners would work to “further develop and refine self-driving technology.”

Google is locating in a building at 46555 Magellan Drive in Novi in the Beck West Corporate Park, according to two sources familiar with the transaction who are not allowed to speak publicly on Google’s private plans.

Krafcik did not provide the exact location of the facility, investment amount or number of expected employees. The company has had self-driving car employees working in southeast Michigan for the past few years, Krafcik said in the posting.

The company’s first task at the site will be to work on self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans, he said. Google earlier this month announced its first official automotive partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to produce 100 self-driving Pacificas using Google’s autonomous vehicle technology.

“Many of our current partners are based here, so having a local facility will help us collaborate more easily and access Michigan's top talent in vehicle development and engineering,” Krafcik said in the post.

The partnership with Fiat Chrysler is not exclusive, and Krafcik continually has said the company is in talks with several automakers to partner on accelerating the development of self-driving vehicles.

A spokeswoman for Fiat Chrysler referred all questioning on the new center to Google. A representative for the Mountain View, California-based tech company declined to offer further details.

Novi Assistant City Manager Victor Cardenas said the city has been working with Google for a few months, helping the company to quickly get building and occupancy permits for its research and development facility.

“We’re excited that they’re coming,” he said. “It really adds to the really good list of tech companies that have opened in the city.”

Cardenas directed questions on the employment size and opening date to Google.

Owners of the industrial park, located east of Beck and south of West roads, did not immediately respond to comment. A listing for the property said the the 52,350 square-foot industrial space was available for lease for manufacturing use. The facility was built in 2003 and the parking lot has 90 spaces.

Google has been working on self-driving cars for more than six years, and its fleet of self-driving cars have logged more than 1.56 million miles autonomously through April. The company tests the vehicles in Kirkland, Washington; Mountain View, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Austin, Texas.

The company employees more than 500 people in Michigan at non-auto facilities in Ann Arbor and Birmingham.

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