The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid stunned many critics with its smooth powertrain and high fuel economy, but with gasoline prices quite low and the hybrid premium fairly high, it hasn’t set the retail world on fire. It did find one happy customer, though, with room for more: self-driving firm Waymo.


Waymo, part of Google, has brought Magna International in to assemble a hefty number of self-driving Pacifica PHEVs in the heart of Detroit, in a former American Axle plant which is clearly visible from the highway. Magna will bring on around a hundred workers in the beginning, with expectations of having around four hundred by 2024. At that point, they’ll also be building self-guided Jaguar electric cars, which are rather different from the minivans.

According to Waymo, this is the first factory completely devoted to mass-producing level-four autonomous vehicles; it was sited to take advantage of the “strong talent base” of American automakers, and is to be up and running within this year.  Waymo cited Michigan’s low cost of living as well as its talent base.

A Waymo rep told Allpar that the company is leasing an existing American Axle building, and confirmed that the company has partnered with FCA (which had no comment). The rep said the facility would be used to “integrate self-driving hardware and software into the vehicles.”

Waymo already tests cars in nearby Novi, which, to the west, is somewhat closer to the airport and Ann Arbor.  At least some of the Pacificas will be used in the new Waymo One taxi service, though for the moment One still has people behind the wheel for safety and is limited to Phoenix, Arizona.

While Elon Musk and Tesla have grabbed self-driving headlines, Waymo and others have moved much further forward in actual self-driving technology.