Google to partner with Ford Motor at Detroit research center

Corey Williams And Mike Householder, The Associated Press

Published Friday, February 4, 2022 1:18 p.m. EST

Last Updated Friday, February 4, 2022 13:18 EST

DETROIT (AP) – Ford Motor Co. announced Friday that Google is joining the automaker’s efforts to turn Detroit’s once dilapidated train station into a research hub focused on electric and self-driving vehicles.

Also, Detroit and the state of Michigan have agreed to provide infrastructure and other support for Michigan’s Central Innovation District that will include a defunct rail depot and other nearby buildings in the historic Corktown neighborhood outside downtown, officials said.

“Together, this is another sign that we are moving forward in a way that shows Michigan is in it to win, that we will be leading the way in the mobility sector, that we are serious about developing high-tech, high-skill jobs,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. event inside the old train station.

Ford announced plans for the Michigan Central Innovation District in 2018, shortly after purchasing the 500,000-square-foot (46,450-square-meter) 18-story train depot. Renovations at the more than a century-old Michigan Central Station could be completed next year, said Ford Motor Co. President Dana. Mary Culler to The Associated Press. Ford plans to research, test, and launch new mobility solutions there.

The station, which towers over Corktown, has been empty since the last train departed in 1988 and has come to symbolize Detroit’s long decline from America’s manufacturing powerhouse to the bankruptcy of its biggest city.

“I’m sick and tired of driving near this building all the time and making this a child poster for Detroit’s devastation,” Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., told attendees at Friday’s event. “And I wanted to do something about it, and we are now, I think, in the process of turning this from a national joke to a national treasure.”

The state will provide more than $126 million worth of programs and resources, including infrastructure. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office is working to establish a Transportation Innovation Zone in the district, with the goal of making it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to safely start and test projects.

“The day we opened Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions NFL), I said to Bill (Ford), you will never do more for the future of the city than what you do here today,” Duggan said. “Have I ever been wrong? What’s happening here is beyond anything we’ve seen.”

Google, which has more than 600 employees in Michigan, will open a lab on the 12-acre site to teach computer science to high school students. Google’s role includes certification programs.

“It’s a partnership where Google will train people and Ford, obviously, will accept people who have that kind of certification in our state in the future,” Culler said, noting that people don’t need a college degree.

Google’s job requires making sure people have the digital skills and training they need to succeed, said Ruth Porat, its chief financial officer.

“Michigan is at the forefront of the industrial revolution,” said Porat. “Today, the world is in the midst of a digital revolution, and Michigan is front and center in tackling the big problems of today. We thought it was the right time and the right place to actually create this kind of digital skills endeavor.”

The automotive industry as a whole is moving towards more complete electric and hybrid propulsion systems, more autonomous driving features, and increased in-vehicle connectivity.

Michigan Central Station opened in 1913 and for decades was a Detroit gem and a hub for rail transportation in and out of the city. Detroit-made vehicles – along with air travel – proved to be part of its demise.

Bill Ford has not said how much it will cost to buy the train station from billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun or how much the automaker hopes to repair it, although the company says the total investment is about $950 million for the station and surrounding district. .

The company wants the innovation district to be a big part of the city’s goals from here.

“Innovation breeds innovation,” says Culler. “The more we are at the forefront of that innovation and we see what other people are doing, it will step up everyone’s game. And I think it will be a game-changer for this city, state and region.”

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