GM accelerates in race toward self-driving cars with acquisition

GM is making a big push into autonomous cars this year

160120 cruise automation

The RP-1 autopilot system from Cruise Automation

Credit: Cruise Automation/IDGNS

Car giant General Motors plans to acquire autonomous vehicle technology vendor Cruise Automation in an effort to accelerate its efforts to develop self-driving capabilities.

GM, which manufactures Chevrolets, Buicks, Cadillacs and other vehicles, is interested in Cruise Technology for its "deep" software expertise and rapid development capabilities, the car maker said Friday. Cruise will give GM an "unmatched" tech advantage, Mark Reuss, the company's vice president for global product development, said in a statement.

GM has made a big push into self-driving technology in recent months. Since the beginning of the year, the company has established a new unit for autonomous vehicle development and invested $500 million in Lyft in a partnership to create a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles.

Cruise, founded in 2013, has developed and tested autonomous vehicle technology in the San Francisco area. Cruise will operate as an independent unit within GM’s recently formed Autonomous Vehicle Development Team, and the company will stay in San Francisco, GM said.

GM's focus on self-driving cars is "completely in line with our vision to make transportation safer and more accessible," Kyle Vogt, founder of Cruise, said in a statement.

Cruise has been marketing an aftermarket highway autopilot system, called the RP-1, for about $10,000, for release this year. The system, with a computer in the trunk and a sensor pod mounted on the roof of the car, was set to be available for models of Audis, according to Cruise's website. The sensor pod uses a combination of combination of cameras, radar and other measurement systems to auto-navigate.

The companies didn't disclose the terms of the deal. GM expects the acquisition to close in the second quarter of this year.

GM has plenty of competition in the development of self-driving car technology. Other  major car makers, like Ford, are working on the technology, as well as Google and possibly Apple.

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