Google plans on opening a research and development center in Novi, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.
Or to put it another way: more self-driving cars are heading to Motor City. “Many of our current partners are based here,” read a note on the Google+ page for Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, “so having a local facility will help us collaborate more easily and access Michigan’s top talent in vehicle development and engineering.” The development center features 53,000 square feet of space—ample room for allowing four-wheeled, robot-controlled vehicles to putter around.
Based on the photo above, though, it seems pretty empty at the moment.
Google claims Rousch, Bosch, Continental, FRIMO, LG Electronics, Prefix, and RCO among its partners on the self-driving car project. In conjunction with Fiat Chrysler, the search-engine giant is also installing its autonomous-driving technology in Pacifica mini-vans.
With a presence in Detroit, Google will conceivably expand its partnerships to other automakers and parts-suppliers. That could give the company something of an advantage in the race to commercialize self-driving vehicles. Google’s competition includes Uber, which started up a research facility in Pittsburgh dedicated to driving technology, and Tesla, which has already given its vehicles the ability to pilot themselves on the highway.
If rumors prove accurate, Apple is also experimenting with self-driving technology, and may release an electric car sometime in the next few years.
In the meantime, Google’s presence in the Detroit area could prove good news for tech pros who are interested in breaking into the market for autonomous-driving technology, especially if it leads to additional job openings for researchers and other specialists.