Uber Technologies Inc, has just announced the plan to open a new facility in the metro Detroit area where they will work with local automakers and suppliers. This is the latest move to converge Silicon Valley with Motor City, a partnership that continues to grow as we more intricately connect technology with automobiles; and self-driving vehicles in particular.
“Detroit is where the automotive industry has really developed — very, very strong talent base; very strong companies — and Uber wants to be part of that,” explains Uber vice president of Global Vehicle Programs Sherif Marakby on Monday morning at the SAE Convergence conference in Novi.
Now, Marakby, is a former Ford employee with 25 years in the industry. While he did not disclose the size or location or even the number of employees they expect to hire, he did say that the Silicon Valley company is in the finalizing leasing process for the facility. He also said that they expect to open “in the coming months.”
He also made sure to note that Uber is flexible on the number of employees they could hire for this facility. All he could manage to tell The Detroit News—following the announcement—is that the targeted facility could “accommodate many people,” and that the purpose is, in fact, “to integrate the self-driving technologies into vehicles.”
He went on to say, “A lot of this talent could be at a very large number,” also adding that the existing Pittsburgh location has already grown to hundreds of employees since it opened only two years ago. “We don’t have any near-term restraint.”
You may be aware that this announcement comes not even a week after Uber launched 20 (give or take) self-driving Ford Fusion vehicles in Pittsburgh. Uber bought these vehicles directly from dealerships, which is not in line with the long term plans of the company, according to Marakby.
He explains that this is not the “model for scale” they are seeking. Indeed, he tells, “The model for scale is collaborating with the auto companies,” because does not want to be in the business of making cars.
Finally, Marakby notes that Detroit could be the future location for a fleet of self-driving vehicles but that could depend on proposed legislation of autonomous vehicles. He says, “Positive legislation that allows technology companies like Uber to operate in Michigan will only help that. We’re very much working with the state on that. We hope it’s going to be a positive result.”