Microsoft has teamed up with Cruise and General Motors (GM) to speed up the commercialisation of autonomous-vehicle technology. The computing giant brings extensive software and hardware expertise to a new long-term strategic relationship, as well as cloud-based capabilities and manufacturing knowhow.
‘Our mission to bring safer, better, and more affordable transportation to everyone isn’t just a tech race - it’s also a trust race,’ said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. ‘Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratisation of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialise our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.’
Alongside these new valuable insights, Microsoft joins GM, Honda, and other investors in a fresh funding round for Cruise, totalling $2 billion (€1.6 billion). This fresh equity injection brings the autonomous-technology developer’s valuation up to $30 billion. GM acquired Cruise in 2016 for roughly $1 billion, when it was staffed by 40 employees. Now it boasts almost 2,000 staff and makes up more than 40% of the automotive company’s $71.5 billion market capitalisation.
Last year, Cruise made considerable progress on the roads. In October, it received a permit from the Californian department of motor vehicles to remove human-backup drives from its cars. While Ammann acknowledged they were not the first company to receive this permit, he wanted them to be the first to put it to use in a major US city. So, in a video posted in December, the carmaker took the human out of the driver’s seat, and let the car fend for itself on San Francisco’s roads.
Concentrating on the cloud
As part of the new strategic relationship, Microsoft will unlock the potential of cloud-based computing for the autonomous-vehicle company with its Azure platform. This should equip Cruise with the tools to commercialise its self-driving solutions at scale. In turn, Microsoft will gain access to the company’s specific industrial knowledge to develop its own production innovations, as well as serving transport companies worldwide through continued investment in Azure.
‘Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,’ said Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO. ‘As Cruise and GM's preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.’
GM will also work with the computing company to accelerate its digitalisation initiatives. This collaboration looks set to include storage, artificial-intelligence and machine-learning capabilities. With Microsoft’s help, the carmaker will explore ways to streamline its operations across digital supply chains, bolster productivity and provide new mobility services more quickly.
‘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 commercialisation of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realise 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.’