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General Motors, Microsoft & Cruise to Work Together on the Development of Commercial Self-driving Vehicles

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【Summary】Cruise, General Motors and Microsoft have announced a long term strategic partnership on the accelerate the development of commercial self-driving vehicles. San Francisco-based Cruise is the self-driving subsidiary of GM. Microsoft and Cruise will bring their software, hardware and cloud computing capabilities to the partnership, while GM will provide is expertise in vehicle manufacturing at scale.

Eric Walz    Jan 19, 2021 10:00 AM PT
General Motors, Microsoft & Cruise to Work Together on the Development of Commercial Self-driving Vehicles

Cruise, General Motors and Microsoft have announced a long term strategic partnership on the accelerate the development of commercial self-driving vehicles. San Francisco-based Cruise is the self-driving subsidiary of GM. 

Microsoft and Cruise will bring their software, hardware and cloud computing capabilities to the partnership, while GM will provide is extetise in vehicle manufacturing at scale. Cruise intends to leverage Microsoft's Azure cloud and edge computing platform for commercialization.

Microsoft will join GM, Honda and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of the company to $30 billion.

For GM, the goal of the partnership is to transform transportation and help the automaker realize its goal of building electric, shared and connected self-driving vehicles with the highest level of safety.

"Microsoft is a great addition to the team as we drive toward a future world of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion," said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. "Microsoft will help us accelerate the commercialization of Cruise's all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth."

Future autonomous and connected vehicles will require a vast cloud-based data network to support their operations. A typical self-driving vehicle can generate up to 40 terabytes of data each day which is continuously transferred from the vehicle to the cloud for processing. 

As part of the strategic partnership, Microsoft will become Cruise's preferred cloud provider, but will also tap into Cruise's expertise to enhance its customer-driven product development and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.

"Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann.

GM will also tap Azure to be its preferred public cloud provider to accelerate its digitization initiatives, including data storage, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. 

"Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods," said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. "As Cruise and GM's preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream."

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Cruise unveiled its Origin autonomous shuttle in Jan 2020. It's designed for a commercial ride-hailing service.

GM will also explore opportunities with Microsoft to streamline its operations, foster productivity and bring new mobility services to market faster.

GM purchased a stake in Cruise in Feb 2016 for $1 billion when the company was just a small San Francisco startup working on self-driving technology. Investing in Cruise was intended to help jumpstart GM's autonomous driving development and the partnership has been successful over the years.

For the past several years, Cruise and GM have been working together to launch a robotaxi service in San Francisco using a fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs outfitted with the hardware and sensors for autonomous driving by Cruise. In the future the Cruise robotaxi service is expected to launch in other cities.

In December after nearly five years and 2 million miles of testing in San Francisco, Cruise said it's ready to remove safety drivers from behind the wheel. Removing safety drivers from its fleet is an important first step for Cruise as it continues to refine its software for an eventual commercial launch. 

The company was granted a permit from California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Oct 2020 to deploy its autonomous test vehicles on public roads without human backup drivers.

However Cruise won't be picking up paying passengers just yet. A separate permit is required to charge the public for rides in autonomous vehicles in California, according to state officials. That permit is obviously more difficult to obtain. 

"We're not the first company to receive this permit, but we're going to be the first to put it to use on the streets of a major U.S. city," said Cruise Chief Executive Dan Annmann at the time.

Cruise unveiled its Origin autonomous shuttle in Jan 2020 specially designed for a commercial ride-share service. The futuristic self-driving shuttle was heavily engineered by Honda with GM supplying the electric powertrain and Cruise tasked with developing the hardware and autonomous driving systems.

The Origin EV will be the first production vehicle purposefully built by a global automaker without a steering wheel or brake pedals or any other human controls. The Origin is designed for commercial use and can be outfitted to carry passengers or cargo.

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