DETROIT — The fate of Google Inc.'s self-driving car rests in the hands of Roush Industries Inc. and other Detroit area suppliers.
Roush, an engineering and specialty manufacturing company known for its custom Ford Mustang models, will assemble a test fleet of 100 Google prototypes in 2015. The company also has its own in-house plastics operations.
When it first introduced its autonomous car in 2014, Google said the prototypes would have a plastic foam front end and a plastic windshield. Further details on the car have not been released.
During World Congress, sponsored by Automotive News, a sister publication of Plastics News and Crain's Detroit Business, Google listed some of its key suppliers for the prototypes.
German auto supply giants Continental AG and Robert Bosch GmbH also would be among the suppliers for the vehicles.
Google, the Silicon Valley-based Internet giant, did not contract with an automaker for the project, Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving cars program, said. Urmson did say that when the pod-like two-seater electric cars are ready for production, an automaker would be involved. He didn't specify whether the automaker would be one of the Detroit 3.
Roush has leased additional space in Livonia, Mich., and refurbished the space for the project, Maureen Crowley, director of corporate communications, told Crain's Detroit Business.
“We've built out a whole area specifically for this program,” Crowley said. “It's been a great opportunity for us to expand upon our assembly capabilities.”
Crowley said Roush has made new hires in supply chain support and assembly, but declined to reveal specific numbers. Google is maintaining a tight lid on the project with non-disclosure agreements.
In July, the Michigan Strategic Fund awarded Roush a $1 million performance-based grant to expand space at multiple sites in suburban Detroit. The project was expected to create 210 new jobs, but did not specifically mention the Google project.
Roush is also “piggybacking” two additional assembly programs, leveraging what it's learning from the Google project, Crowley said. She declined to discuss the additional projects, citing non-disclosure agreements.
Google plans to deploy the test fleet of Roush-built prototypes this year, yet no timeline has been disclosed. On closed courses, Urmson said the cars will be able to operate without a steering wheel, brakes or accelerator — and drive themselves without a human passenger.
Due to California regulations, controls will be added and a test driver will be behind the wheel when the car travels on public roads.