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Waymo's robotaxi depot in Arizona. Photo: Waymo

Waymo, which in December launched the nation's first paid robotaxi business, is taking the next step toward commercialization with a deal to assemble self-driving cars at a new factory in Michigan.

Why it matters: Detroit frets constantly about Silicon Valley usurping its claim as the current and future home of the auto industry. But it turns out the Motor City, with its deep talent pool, is the perfect place for Alphabet's self-driving vehicle unit to assemble its futuristic cars.

What's new: Waymo said yesterday that it plans to invest $13.6 million to open a factory in southeast Michigan.

  • This will create at least 100 jobs, potentially reaching 400 new positions for engineers, operations experts and fleet managers.
  • The company will receive a grant of up to $8 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., if it meets the 400-person hiring target.
  • That would equate to $20,000 in state aid per job, per Reuters.
  • Waymo doesn't build cars, so it partnered with Magna, a giant auto supplier with loads of experience as a contract manufacturer, to integrate its self-driving technology into FiatChrysler and Jaguar vehicles.

The big picture: Waymo has deals to buy up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans and 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace luxury crossovers for its robotaxi service. It also has agreements with Avis and AutoNation to provide maintenance and fleet management services.

Yes, but: So far, Waymo has just 600 vehicles in its fleet, with most of them still in testing mode. CEO John Krafcik has said the company plans to expand its fleet to as many as 20,000 vehicles by 2022, which seems like a stretch, given the slow roll of AV progress today.

Go deeper: Waymo obtains California permit for fully driverless testing

Go deeper

White House nominates Rick Spinrad as NOAA leader

In this NOAA GOES-East satellite handout image, Hurricane Dorian, a Cat. 4 storm, moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on September 2, 2019. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)

The White House on Thursday evening nominated Rick Spinrad, an oceanographer at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why it matters: Filling the NOAA slot would complete the Biden administration's leadership on the climate and environment team. The agency, located within the Commerce Department, houses the National Weather Service and conducts much of the nation's climate science research.

3 hours ago - World

Israeli officials will object to restoration of Iran deal in D.C. visit

Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the delegation traveling to Washington, D.C. next week for strategic talks on Iran to stress their objection to a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal and to refuse to discuss its contents, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: That position is similar to the one Israel took in the year before the 2015 nuclear deal was announced, which led to a rift between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. History could now repeat itself.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases aren't budging — even after vaccinations doubled— Health care workers feel stress, burnout more than a year into the pandemic — Handful of "breakthrough" COVID cases occurred in nursing homes, CDC says.
  2. Vaccines: Johnson & Johnson's vaccine production problems look even bigger — All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine.
  3. Political: Watchdog says agency infighting increased health and safety risks at start of pandemic.
  4. World: EU regulator: Benefits of J&J vaccine outweigh risk of rare blood clots.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.