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General Motors To Acquire Self-Driving Startup, Ramping Up Autonomous Plans

11 March 2016, 12:17 pm EST By Mark Lelinwalla Tech Times
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GM expects Cruise Automation's software range to help accelerate its self-driving technology.  ( General Motors )

According to data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Google sits at the top of the list of top three companies with the most test permits for self-driving cars in the state with a whopping 73, followed by Tesla with eight and Cruise Automation right behind it with seven.

Not familiar with that third company? Well, it's actually a startup that was just acquired by General Motors, as announced Friday, with the transaction to be made official during the second quarter. GM believes Cruise Automation's deep software talent will help it mash the dash in further accelerating its development of autonomous vehicle technology, making the acquisition vital.

"Fully autonomous vehicles can bring our customers enormous benefits in terms of greater convenience, lower cost and improved safety for their daily mobility needs," GM president Dan Ammann said in the company's press release statement Friday.

As part of the acquisition, Cruise Automation will operate as an independent unit under GM's newly-formed Autonomous Vehicle Development Team. The San Francisco-based startup has impressed the auto industry with its rapid development of autonomous vehicle technology and will continue working in the city in which it was first founded.

"GM's commitment to autonomous vehicles is inspiring, deliberate, and completely in line with our vision to make transportation safer and more accessible," Kyle Vogt, founder of Cruise Automation, said in GM's press release to make the announcement. "We are excited to be partnering with GM and believe this is a ground-breaking and necessary step toward rapidly commercializing autonomous vehicle technology."

Looking at those aforementioned California Department of Motor Vehicles public records shows just how quickly Cruise is moving with autonomy, counting seven self-driving test permits in the state — a greater amount than Mercedes-Benz (five), Volkswagen (two), Nissan (two), Ford (two), BMW (one) and Honda (one), which, needless to say, have been in the automotive space for a much longer time. Yet, they're some of the big brands trailing this Silicon Valley startup.

Overall, GM believes working with Cruise will help it accelerate with personal mobility, similar to what Ford is doing, with the latter going as far as to say that it wants to be both a mobility company and an automaker. For GM, Friday's acquisition comes after it has already invested $500 million in the ride-hailing app Lyft to bolster its new Maven car-sharing service.

As far as mobility, GM already touts Maven and a separately-dedicated team for autonomous development.

Things are definitely picking up.

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