DETROIT -- General Motors is acquiring a California technology company that sells an aftermarket autonomous-driving kit, the latest in a string of investments by GM in startups involved in alternative modes of mobility.
GM said in a statement today that it’s acquiring San Francisco-based Cruise Automation for its “deep software talent and rapid development capability to further accelerate” GM’s development of autonomous vehicles. GM didn’t disclose terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter.
Founded in 2013 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology dropout Kyle Vogt, Cruise Automation last year began selling an aftermarket system that it claims can be installed on some late-model Audis to switch them into autopilot mode in highway driving. The $10,000 system uses roof-mounted radar sensors and other detection hardware that relay signals to in-car actuators to control the vehicle’s steering, brakes and throttle.
Cruise, with 40 employees, was launched in 2013 and had raised $20 million in venture capital to date, founder Kyle Vogt told Reuters. GM and Cruise did not disclose the value of GM's acquisition. The technology website Re/Code cited sources as saying GM paid $1 billion. A GM spokesman declined to comment on that figure.
GM initially planned an investment in the company but moved within five weeks to buy Cruise outright, said venture partner Nabeel Hyatt of Spark Capital, an investor in Cruise.
"They moved faster than most Silicon Valley companies would move," he said.
Vogt impressed Silicon Valley venture capital fund Signia Venture Partners by demonstrating an Audi A4 that could be controlled by a game console, said Signia principal Sunny Dhillon.
More recently, Cruise was working on a system that could make a car "fully driverless," Vogt told Reuters.
GM said Cruise Automation will remain based in San Francisco and operate independently within GM’s Autonomous Vehicle Development Team, created earlier this year and led by longtime engineering executive Doug Parks.
GM global product-development chief Mark Reuss said GM will invest “significantly” in the Cruise team and its technology.
“Cruise provides our company with a unique technology advantage that is unmatched in our industry,” he said.
In the statement, Vogt said: “GM’s commitment to autonomous vehicles is inspiring, deliberate and completely in line with our vision to make transportation safer and more accessible.”
GM’s recent deals have been in the ride-sharing space, including a $500 million investment into Lyft Inc. and the creation of its own car-sharing fleet, which it named Maven. But GM executives have said they see autonomous driving and ride-sharing as intertwined, and expect that the first broad deployment of autonomous vehicles will happen within ride- or car-sharing models.
Other automakers are moving into ride sharing and self-driving vehicles, as are some traditional auto suppliers.
Lear Corp., Continental AG and Delphi Automotive Plc among others are seeking technology companies to buy for intellectual property and programming talent.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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