Waymo, the self-driving car division of Google parent company Alphabet, today announced that it would open an 85,000-square-foot technical service center in the city of Mesa, Arizona, near Phoenix’s East Valley, which it says will “more than double” its capacity to maintain the fleet of cars in Waymo One, its driverless taxi service in Phoenix.
“[O]ver time, [this will] help us expand our team to employ up to hundreds more local Phoenicians. It’s just the latest step in our investment and commitment to this region,” Waymo wrote in a Medium post. “Metro Phoenix offers everything we need to continue building safe and reliable self-driving technology: a large area with broad, yet complex, city streets; a wide-spread suburban population that relies heavily on vehicle transport; and of course, lots of gorgeous sunny days for driving while we also invest in further weather testing. Most importantly, Metro Phoenix is an innovation-minded region that shares our vision of improving mobility for all.”
Waymo declined to share how many vehicles are currently operating in Arizona, but said it includes the “majority” of its 600 vehicles operating nationwide.
Today’s news follows the expansion of Waymo’s full-service center in Chandler — which houses operations and support teams, including fleet technicians, fleet dispatch, fleet response, and rider support — last year to 60,000 square feet, and after Waymo said it would invest $13.6 million to expand its operations in the Great Lakes state, following a vote by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to approve the plans.
And both of those developments come two years after Waymo began building and testing driverless Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans in the Detroit Metro area. They’re currently produced in Windsor, Canada and shipped to the Novi, Michigan center, where they’re outfitted with hardware and software by Waymo and Chrysler engineers.
Waymo sought to begin adding up to 62,000 minivans to its fleet before the end of 2018, and it has signed a deal with Jaguar Land Rover to equip 20,000 of the automaker’s Jaguar i-Pace electric SUVs with its autonomous system by 2020.
Waymo claims the forthcoming retrofit of a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing space in Michigan, where it will work with automotive partners to outfit cars with its driverless system, will be the world’s first factory entirely dedicated to the mass production of level 4 autonomous vehicles — that is, cars that can drive without human intervention in most conditions. It became the first company to obtain a fully driverless car permit in California last year, where it got the green light to test its self-driving cars on public roads, and it says its cars have driven 10 million miles autonomously on public roads in 25 states and 7 billion simulated miles.