GM Buys Startup to Fuel Driverless Car Push

The automaker says Cruise Automation will provide it with "a unique technology advantage" in the race toward autonomous driving.
Matthew HellerMarch 11, 2016

General Motors is accelerating its push into self-driving cars by acquiring Cruise Automation, a startup that has developed a system for retrofitting existing vehicles with autonomous-driving software.

GM cited Cruise’s “deep software talent and rapid development capability” in announcing the acquisition Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the Wall Street Journal reported that, according to people familiar with the matter, the price is more than $1 billion in cash and stock.

Founded in 2013, Cruise is best known for its software that gave autopilot capabilities to conventional cars. About a year and a half ago, the company switched its focus to fully driverless technology.

4 Powerful Communication Strategies for Your Next Board Meeting

4 Powerful Communication Strategies for Your Next Board Meeting

This whitepaper outlines four powerful strategies to amplify board meeting conversations during a time of economic volatility. 

“Cruise provides our company with a unique technology advantage that is unmatched in our industry,” Mark Reuss, a GM executive vice president, said in a news release. “We intend to invest significantly to further grow the talent base and capabilities already established by the Cruise team.”

The purchase of Cruise Automation comes two months after GM bought the assets of Sidecar Technologies, a San Francisco ride-hailing company, and invested $500 million in the ride-sharing service Lyft. GM and Lyft plan to collaborate on a service that will allow users to reserve a self-driving car.

“GM is actually investing in products that are already developed, so they’re not inventing from scratch,” Rebecca Lindland, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told the Los Angeles Times. “It makes sense, saves money and also potentially speeds up the adoption rate and the technology and integration.”

Cruise founder Kyle Vogt told Reuters the company was working on a system that could make a car “fully driverless.” GM President Dan Ammann said the automaker intends to use Cruise’s technology and people to accelerate its effort to develop vehicles that can operate without a human driver, potentially as part of ride-sharing fleets.

“We will be committing considerable resources to recruit and grow the capability of the team,” he said.

Detroit is trying to keep up with Silicon Valley companies Google and Apple, which are both working on driverless cars in a potential threat to established auto makers.