Cruise, GM partner with Microsoft to ramp up self-driving vehicles

Alonzo Simpson
January 21, 2021

GM will also work with Microsoft to accelerate its storage, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities as well as to bring new mobility services to customers.

Cruise recently began testing its autonomous cars on the streets of San Francisco without a backup driver in the driver's seat as it develops its technology with an eye on launching a driverless ride-hailing service using the Origin electric shuttle it unveiled a year ago.

As with most of its cloud deals, Cruise will make use of Microsoft's Azure cloud while Microsoft will siphon its partners' knowledge and expertise to create better solutions to help accelerate its own innovation in the market.

"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", said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann.

What this means is that all of the backend infrastructures will be hosted by Microsoft and they will also provide technical support for building out the infrastructure that will host Cruise's technology stack.

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This is not your normal tech partnership, instead Microsoft is actually chipping in some money in a new equity raise by Cruise, worth more than A$2 billion, placing the value of the company around $30 billion. GM also hopes to improve its digital supply chain and improve productivity through the partnership. Developing self-driving auto software requires enormous computing resources: Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo, a top Cruise rival, disclosed last March that its AI system was driving 20 million miles a day on virtual roads as part of simulations created to increase the software's accuracy.

The partnership comes on the heels of a series of GM announcements to reposition the Detroit giant to compete with Tesla and other newer players.

Microsoft is no stranger to the automotive segment and has worked with companies like Toyota and others to build out connected cars.

Cruise will be sending the first of its self-driving test vehicles to Japan and start development for testing this year. But with its Cruise investment, I'll be curious to see if this impacts other self-driving vehicle startups from choosing Azure for their platform.

General Motors has been aggressively revamping its image, saying the industry has reached a history-changing inflection point for mass adoption of electric vehicles.

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