GM Investing $100 Million in Michigan Plants to Build Autonomous Vehicles

GM Investing $100 Million in Michigan Plants to Build Autonomous Vehicles

General Motors Co. will invest more than $100 million in two Michigan assembly plants where it plans to build its Cruise AV driverless car and the roof modules required for autonomous driving. The roof mounted modules contain the vital hardware for self-driving cars, including cameras, LiDAR, and other sensors.

The vehicle itself will be assembled at its Orion Township assembly plant, where the Chevrolet Bolt EV and test versions of the Cruise AV already are being made. The roof modules will be built at GM’s Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant. The battery plant was the first high-volume battery assembly plant in the U.S. operated by a major automaker

GM says it is investing more than $100 million to retool both facilities for autonomous vehicle production. There is no jobs impact related to this announcement, GM spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said.

The Brownstown Township plant is already producing roof modules. Production of the Cruise AV at Orion assembly is expected to begin in 2019.

The Cruise AV is expected to hit the road in 2019 in a yet-to-be-named city where GM will launch a driverless taxi service. GM is still waiting on federal approval for its first autonomous car without a driver, steering wheel or manual controls.

The company filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) earlier this year to meet 16 safety requirements “in a different way,” given that federal safety regulation language revolves around human drivers and vehicles engineered to be piloted by a human driver.

Gaining federal approval is still not guaranteed however, and even if GM gets approval from the NHTSA, it will have to negotiate at a state level. There are only seven states in which the Cruise AV could deploy immediately after federal approval, including Michigan. The other six are North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Colorado and Nevada.


A Cruise AV

GM has said it is likely the 2019 launch would happen in a city where Cruise Automation—GM’s self-driving unit— is already testing Cruise AVs. Most of that testing is already happening in downtown San Francisco where Crusie is based, but there are also test sites around the Tech Center in Warren and in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Workers at GM’s Orion Assembly started building versions of the Cruise AV in January 2017. The production-ready vehicle is GM’s fourth-generation driverless car in just 18 months.

“We’re continuing to make great progress on our plans to commercialize in 2019,” GM President Dan Ammann said in a statement. “Our Orion and Brownstown teams have proven experience in building high-quality self-driving test vehicles and battery packs, so they are well-prepared to produce the Cruise AV.”

The Orion plant will also continue to build the popular Bolt EV, which is the platform for the Cruise AV and the Chevy Sonic. Roof modules will be built on a dedicated assembly line at the Brownstown Battery Assembly plant, which will continue its regular operations as well.

“The UAW is committed to preparing our members for the future of advanced mobility and this investment recognizes our willingness to work together to build these self-driving vehicles,” Cindy Estrada, vice president and director for the UAW’s GM department, said in a statement. “Whether it involves traditional vehicles or advance technology, our members are highly capable of delivering great products.”