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GM Acquires Driverless Tech Company Cruise Automation

It is an acquisition that will aid in the development of autonomous vehicles.

Linda Parton / Shutterstock

General Motors has made a few interesting strides in its development of autonomous technology in the last couple of months.

Today, just two months after GM announced it was acquiring the assets of former ride-hailing company Sidecar, the company said it was purchasing another Silicon Valley-based entity: Cruise Automation. Cruise, which was founded by former Twitch co-creator Kyle Vogt in 2013, produced after-market driverless technology “kits” that turned any Audi S4 or A4 into an autonomous vehicle.

As part of the acquisition, Cruise will be turning its focus strictly on creating software that will be integrated into GM cars. The autonomous technology company, which has raised $18.8 million to date, will continue to operate independently in San Francisco to develop and integrate full-stack autonomous software into GM vehicles. Only now, the company will be doing that with the backing of GM’s “full support and resources available,” according to GM President Dan Ammann.

“This will significantly accelerate the timeline for bringing autonomous vehicles to market,” Ammann told Re/code. When pressed for specifics on a timeline, Ammann said though the company had a roadmap in mind, it would not be sharing details at this time.

But during the company’s recent announcement that it would be partnering with Lyft to create an on-demand driverless platform, Lyft co-founder John Zimmer was a bit more revealing. According to Zimmer, consumers could expect to see driverless GM cars on Lyft’s platform in the next 10 years, likely sooner.

The partnership with Lyft and the acquisitions of Sidecar and Cruise — the latter of which the company expects to close in the second quarter — signal that GM is getting serious about its driverless future.

In the case of Sidecar, GM salvaged the ride-hailing company as it was in the midst of shuttering its operations. But it was a frugal buy for the automaker which, according to reports, acquired the scraps of the dying company for less than the company’s total funding.

Cruise Automation is certainly a strategic acquisition for GM. Cruise, for its part, was operating in a niche market and sold its kits for just $10,000 a pop. According to the company’s “About” page — which was taken down earlier this week — Cruise was “no longer accepting reservations” for its first 50 autonomous kits. A GM spokesperson would not give any guidance on the company’s profitability, but it is worth noting Cruise’s last round of funding was a convertible note in the amount of $2 million — a likely indication the company was burning through funds.

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