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American car-makers invest in autonomy

Cruise controlled: GM Cruise has announced a large investment from the SoftBank Vision Fund, to the tune of $US2.25 billion ($A2.98 billion).

GM, FCA US expand self-driving tech programs to extend autonomous capabilities

General News logo1 Jun 2018

GENERAL Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) US have both announced expansions of their autonomous vehicle development programs, as the automotive industry increases its focus on self-driving cars.
 
Global software investment company SoftBank has used its Vision Fund – designed to promote businesses and foundational platforms for future innovation – to invest $US2.25 billion ($A2.98 billion) in GM Cruise, the car-maker’s autonomous vehicle program.
 
GM Cruise is a collaborative project by GM and automation specialists Cruise, purchased by GM in 2016 in an effort to accelerate its progress towards fully autonomous vehicles.  
 
Together, GM produces the hardware for creating autonomous-capable vehicles, while Cruise handles the software side.
 
The SoftBand Vision Fund will invest the money in two instalments, the first a $US900 million ($A1.19 billion) sum to be made at the closing of the transaction.
 
Once the Cruise autonomous vehicles are ready for deployment in a commercial setting, the fund will donate a further $US1.35 billion ($A1.79 billion) subject to regulatory approval.
 
This will result in the Vision Fund owning a 19.6 per cent stake in GM Cruise, while GM will itself invest $US1.1 billion ($A1.46b) into the program.
 
GM estimates the investments will give it enough capital to reach commercialisation at scale by next year.
 
GM president Dan Ammann said the investment would help the brand launch automation on a grand scale.
 
“We’re excited to be joining forces with a tech leader who shares our belief that AV technology will change the world,” he said.
 
“We look forward to partnering with SoftBank as we work toward deploying this technology safely and in massive scale.”
 
Meanwhile, FCA US has announced it will expand its partnership with Waymo, expanding its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans by 62,000 as part of a commitment announced in January to deliver thousands of vehicles to Waymo’s driverless transportation service.
 
The commitment shows a huge increase in driverless Pacifica production, as since FCA and Waymo first announced their partnership in May 2016, 600 Pacifica hybrids have been delivered to Waymo.
 
According to FCA, Waymo is currently the only company in the US with a fleet for fully self-driving cars on public roads, without anyone occupying the driver’s seat.
 
Waymo has plans to launch the world’s first self-driving transportation service later this year, with the public able to access the vehicles via the company’s app.
 
FCA will begin delivery of the new vehicles late this year.
 
The announcement was also coupled with the news that the two companies are beginning discussions about the use of Waymo self-driving tech in an FCA-manufactured vehicle to become available to customers, potentially through licensing.
 
FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said strategic partnerships such as the one with Waymo were important to progress the integration of autonomous technology into passenger vehicles.
 
“FCA is committed to bringing self-driving technology to our customers in a manner that is safe, efficient and realistic,” he said.
 
“Strategic partnerships, such as the one we have with Waymo, will help to drive innovative technology to the forefront.” 

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