GM closes reported $1B purchase of Cruise Automation

The startup may key for General Motors in bringing a fully autonomous car to market soon.

Greg Gardner
Detroit Free Press
General Motors President Dan Ammann (right) with Cruise Automation co-founders Kyle Vogt (center) and Daniel Kan (left).

General Motors has completed its acquisition of Cruise Automation, the 3-year-old San Francisco start-up that may provide a critical piece of technology in the quest to bring a fully autonomous car to market soon.

The automaker won't disclose the final price or other terms until this summer when it reports second-quarter financial results. Multiple media sources have reported that GM is paying at least $1 billion for Cruise.

"General Motors is pleased to announce it has completed the closing of the acquisition of Cruise Automation," the company said in a statement.

The deal's consummation had been threatened by a pair of lawsuits involving Cruise cofounder and CEO Kyle Vogt and Jeremy Guillory, who said he was an early partner in the company. Guillory said he was a 50% owner of Cruise with Vogt, based on an October 2013 application for funding from Y Combinator, a Mountain View, Calif., seed capital investment fund.

GM did not comment on the status of those lawsuits because it was not a party to them.

Vogt and Cruise sued Guillory, alleging he left the company shortly after it was incorporated, and he didn't hold shares or invent or patent any technologies or hardware in the system that attracted GM's interest.

Former Cruise partner fires back in fight over GM deal

What attracted GM was a device Cruise employees have created that enables drivers to take a car onto the highway, then push a button that transfers control of the accelerator, brakes and steering. The company also has worked on autonomous features on farming tractors and mining equipment.

Under terms of GM's acquisition, Cruise will operate from San Francisco; cofounder Vogt will report to GM's recently formed autonomous vehicle development team led by Doug Parks, GM vice president of autonomous technology.

This is GM's latest in a series of moves to position itself for the emerging "new mobility" market where consumers, especially in large cities, are looking for alternatives to owning a car.

GM deal is a big move in autonomous vehicle quest

In January, GM announced it is investing $500 million in ride-sharing service Lyft, which also is based in San Francisco.

In March, GM and Lyft launched Express Drive in Chicago, a pilot program through which GM will rent vehicles to Lyft drivers for $99 a week for up to eight weeks. That fee will be waived for drivers who log 65 or more rides per month.

Later this year, GM will begin offering a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Volts for use by its employees at the Warren Tech Center.

GM and other traditional automakers have been introducing autonomous features gradually on new models for several years. These include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane-departure alerts.

These technologies are taking the cars' capability to what are known within the industry as Level 2 and Level 3 autonomy.

GM's plan to introduce a semi-autonomous cruise control feature it calls Super Cruise on the Cadillac CT6 has been pushed back to next year.

Last week, a Lyft executive, Taggart Matthiesen, said GM and Lyft would begin testing a small fleet of fully autonomous vehicles that could be the new Chevrolet Bolt, in the latter's ride-sharing services in one city that Matthiesen did not identify.

Google, which has been testing a fleet of its driverless cars on public roads for several years around its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, is committed to developing a safe and commercially viable vehicle with full, or Level 4, autonomy.

Contact Greg Gardner: 313-222-8762 or Follow him on Twitter @GregGardner12