GM to buy self-driving car kit start-up for $1bn

11 Mar 2016

General Motors (GM) is making its latest bid to corner the future self-driving car market, announcing it’s to buy Cruise, a start-up that develops kits that can turn any car into a self-driving one.

While billions of dollars is being pumped into researching the technology behind self-driving cars, it seems GM is looking to add another string to its already impressive bow of strategic decisions to secure its place as a leading self-driving car developer.

The car manufacturer piqued considerable interest at the beginning of this year when it announced it was going to invest $500m in the ride-sharing company Lyft to help develop a fleet of self-driving cars for the service.

Now, according to Fortune, GM is willing to double this investment to $1bn for the purchase of the three-year-old start-up Cruise which has taken a very different approach to self-driving cars.

Rather than build a self-driving car from the ground-up – like Google or Apple – Cruise develops retro-fitting kits that can allow certain cars to become self-driving cars after its kit is installed into the car.

Getting a self-driving car on the road quicker

GM snapping up self-driving car start-ups might not be surprising given that some market analysts have predicted that start-ups will lead future autotech, rather than major manufacturers.

Once the takeover is completed, it’s more than likely that the retrofitting of cars is not of interest to them, but it would rather integrate Cruise’s technology within its own range of cars.

After all, if GM could add this technology into cars within the next few years or so, it will likely be ahead of the competition by some distance.

Speaking of the deal, Cruise’s founder, Kyle Vogt, is rather enthusiastic about where its technology goes from here.

“We believe this is the best path forward to implement cruise tech at a massive scale … this is a groundbreaking and necessary step toward rapidly commercialising autonomous vehicle technology,” he said.

The deal for the company is likely to close sometime by the conclusion of Q2 this year, GM says.

GM headquarters image via Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic