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Google increases focus on self-driving, sets up Research & Development Center in Michigan

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After inking a deal to use Fiat Chrysler Minivans as self-driving test subjects, Google is now planning to settle down and establish a research and development center in Michigan.

The project christened as the Google Self-driving Car Project had been operating and testing its self-driving prototype in the Greater Detroit Area. The team however has now decided to setup a 53,000 square-foot technology center in Novi, Michigan as Google’s current partners are based around that particular area.

John Krafcik, the head of Google’s self-driving program added in a Google+ post that it will also benefit the team collaborate and work more closely as all the local facilities including Fiat’s manufacturing plant are located near-by. As reported earlier, this will also enable the self-driving team to expand and poach Michigan’s top engineering and automobile development talent.

Krafcik also mentions that the team with the newly hired squad will move into the newly developed technology center by the end of 2016. The first task at hand will be to ready and setup the automation equipment on the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans and double the fleet that can be deployed to gather data. Fiat has partnered with Google and has promised to design and engineer about 100 minivans specifically for their self-driving technology.

This marks the first time Google has collaborated with a third-party automobile manufacturer like Fiat Chrysler since it started out to successfully build a self-driving seven years ago. The details of the partnerships are still undisclosed and there is not even any licensing agreement that bars either party to work with other corporations.

The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.

adds Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler.

Google has been trying to make the roads safer by developing an all-rounder self-driving automobile for quite sometime now, but this partnership and development center will cement its efforts. The ‘Google of China’ Baidu has also expressed its desire to setup a self-driving team of about 100 researchers and engineers in Silicon Valley. The tech giants self-driving technology might be the most advanced but if the company doesn’t bring the vehicles on-road soon, it will be left way behind by Elon Musk and his autonomous Tesla. While other competitors like LeEco are also trying to enter the autonomous car market in partnership with Tesla rival, Faraday Future.

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