Google’s self-driving car lab rolls into Motor City

In a move geared toward driving its autonomous vehicle program further down the road, tech giant Google will open a self-driving car technology center in the Detroit area.

As reported on the Yahoo! Tech site Google is launching an advanced facility in Novi, Michigan for engineers and other specialists to test cars for its self-driving vehicle program.  The 53,000 square foot facility will enable the California-based company to “further develop and refine self-driving technology.”

“For the past few years, members of our team have been working from the Greater Detroit area… Now it’s time to lay down roots,” Google’s parent company Alphabet said in a statement.

“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.”

The center will trial cars provided by Fiat Chrysler in what is Google’s first direct collaboration with a car-maker to develop autonomous vehicles.

This follows Google’s earlier announcement that it has partnered with Fiat Chrysler to double the size of the company’s autonomous fleet to 200 cars.

This lab has sensible vehicles

Unlike the scary-smiley Google driverless car (above), the Detroit lab’s parking lot will look more familiar. Fiat will provide 100 Chrysler Pacifica vans to Google. The vans will be fitted with all of Google’s autonomous technology and will join Google’s other 100 cars in California for road testing.

“One of the first tasks will be to ready our self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans. We’ll begin moving in throughout 2016,” the company said.

Previously Google has stated that it does not intend to license its self-driving vehicle technology nor market the autonomous minivans for sale.

Google began trials on self-driving cars in 2009 with a Toyota Prius that had been modified with Google technology.

As ReadWrite observed earlier this month, it is unlikely Google will build its own vehicles when driverless cars are permitted on the roads, instead working with a small selection of automotive companies. Fiat is in a powerful position to be the primary manufacturer of autonomous cars that use Google’s technology.

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