GM President Dan Ammann right with Cruise Automation cofounders Kyle Vogt center and Daniel Kan left General Motors

GM President Dan Ammann (right) with Cruise Automation co-founders Kyle Vogt (center) and Daniel Kan (left).

GM Makes 'Significant' Acquisition in Autonomous Vehicle Race

The automaker has acquired Cruise Technologies, which has been testing autonomous vehicles on the streets of San Francisco.

Two days after Toyota scooped up the autonomous software team at Jaybridge Robotics, General Motors announced today it is acquiring Cruise Automation, a San Francisco based developer of autonomous vehicle software.

 “We believe this will significantly accelerate our development of autonomous technology,” GM President Dan Ammann told Bloomberg. “Between the technology we have and the technology Cruise has, it will be a very powerful combination.”

GM had been  watching the company for almost two years as it tested self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco. By combining GM’s work in autonomous cars and its manufacturing capability with Cruise’s software, GM will be able to get this technology to market sooner, Ammann said.

Cruise will operate as an independent unit within GM’s recently formed Autonomous Vehicle Development Team led by Doug Parks, GM vice president of autonomous technology and vehicle execution, and will continue to be based in San Francisco. 

Founded in 2013, Cruise has focused on developing and testing autonomous vehicle technology in urban environments. Google has been testing its self-driving car on the rural roads of Mountainview, Calif., and in Austin, Texas (and has applied for permits to test in four more cities). Ford recently began testing its self-driving prototype in snowy conditions in Michigan.

Cruise founder Kyle Vogt said in the release the GM partnership was a “necessary step toward rapidly commercializing autonomous vehicle technology.” 

According to Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president, global product development, purchasing and supply chain, GM intends “to invest significantly” to build on Cruise’s capabilities.  

The Cruise acquisition, according to the release, fits in with GM’s  mission to “redefine the future of personal mobility.”

Since January, GM has entered into a strategic alliance with ride-sharing company Lyft; formed Maven, its personal mobility brand for car-sharing fleets in many U.S. cities, and established a separate unit for autonomous vehicle development.

Other tech-automaker partnerships are also shaping up. In November, Microsoft partnered with Volvo on information-gathering to "enhance the driving experience" and use predictive analytics to improve safety.

Rumors of a Ford and Google partnership on autonomous vehicles have circulated in recent months. But John Krafcik, head of Google's Self Driving Project, told a gathering of auto industry executives in January that "we hope to work with many of you guys--OEMS, Tier One suppliers, NGOs" because "automakers have a track record of producing cars at scale."

The transaction between GM and Cruise is expected to close in the second quarter.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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