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GM's Self-Driving Unit Cruise to Open a Seattle Office

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【Summary】San Francisco-based self-driving car startup Cruise Automation is expanding its operations to Seattle. The company, which is owned by General Motors, has been working with the automaker on developing autonomous technology.

FutureCar Staff    Nov 20, 2018 3:50 PM PT
GM's Self-Driving Unit Cruise to Open a Seattle Office
author: FutureCar Staff    

San Francisco-based self-driving car startup Cruise Automation is expanding its operations to Seattle with the opening of a new engineering office. The company, which is owned by General Motors, has been working with the automaker on developing autonomous technology.

The company said its Seattle office could employ as many as 200 autonomous driving engineers by next year.

Cruise plans to take advantage of Seattle's proximity to tech talent. Led by Microsoft and Amazon, the region has been a magnet for software engineers, experts in computer vision, AI and machine learning, which has turned the region into a burgeoning tech hotspot.

"To continue growing a team that is diverse and rich in talent, we feel that it's important to explore talent pools outside of the Bay Area, and Seattle's vibrant tech community and proximity to our headquarters in San Francisco make it a logical choice," said Kyle Vogt, Cruise's CEO and co-founder, in a statement emailed statement.

Cruise is still deciding where it will open its new engineering office. The company may pick Seattle or in the nearby cities of Bellevue or Redmond. The plan is to have 100 to 200 engineers to be working at the new office by the end of 2019. The majority of those engineers are expected to be new hires rather than relocating employees from other locations.

The move is another example of a established automaker looking beyond Detroit to gain access to tech talent. Cruise was acquired by GM in 2016 for more than $1 billion, as the automaker looked to jumpstart its self-driving car technology.

Since then, it's attracted investments of $2.25 billion from SoftBank and another $2.75 billion from Honda, reportedly boosting its valuation to $14.6 billion. Softbank is also an investor in ride-hailing giant Uber.

At the time of the GM acquisition in 2016, Cruise was just a young startup with only 40 employees. Now Cruise says its workforce is growing at a rate of 30 to 40 percent per quarter, and has grown to around 1,100 employees. Cruise is also testing self-driving cars in the Phoenix area alongside Waymo, the self-driving arm of parent company Alphabet.

Cruise spent the past two years mapping and testing self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco, using a fleet of modified self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs supplied by GM.

Since being acquired by GM, the company has been mapping and testing autonomous technology mainly in San Francisco. The two companies are working together on a planned robotaxi service in the city they plan on launching in 2019 to rival Uber and Lyft.

Eariler this year, GM announced it was exploring an IPO for Cruise. However, the automaker first wants to position the business for commercial success.

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