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Google tootles into Detroit with its self-driving car project

Pushing ahead with the development of its self-driving technology, Google has decided to set up shop in the traditional home of the automotive industry – Detroit.

The Silicon Valley company on Wednesday revealed plans for a 53,000-square-foot facility in the city of Novi, a short drive from Detroit. It plans to have the “self-driving technology development center” up and running by the end of the year.

With some members of Google’s self-driving team already working in the area, the company said it feels now is the right time “to lay down roots.”

“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 company said in a Google+ post announcing the news.

It added that the priority for the team at the new base will be to ready its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.

For those not in the know, the recently announced collaboration between Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will see Google’s self-driving technology fitted into 100 specially designed Pacifica minivans.

The current state of Google's Detroit facility.

The current state of Google’s Detroit facility.

The company said the project gives it the opportunity to test its self-driving gear with a larger vehicle – up to now it’s been using the Toyota Prius, Audi TT, and Lexus RX450h cars, as well as its much smaller pod-like vehicle, to put its kit through its paces.

“Collaborations like these are an important part of realizing the potential of self-driving technology to improve road safety and make transportation more accessible for millions of people,” Google said of its work with FCA.

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Google’s tie-up with the Italian-American automaker comes at a time of much activity in the sector, with tech firms, traditional car companies, and ride-hailing services scrambling to form alliances to work more aggressively toward their goals in the areas of self-driving and electric cars.

Just yesterday we heard Toyota had inked a deal with ride-hailing giant Uber, which is already investing heavily in self-driving technology, while GM earlier this year invested $500 million in Uber rival Lyft. And Apple, which is rumored to be working on its own car, recently announced a $1 billon investment in China’s leading ride-hailing company, Didi Chuxing.