General Motors goal of having a self-driving vehicle on the road next year just got a $2.25 billion push toward reality courtesy of an investment from they SoftBank Vision Fund.
The automaker is throwing in $1.1 billion along with the Japanese tech investor’s contribution to GM Cruise Holdings. The investor community liked the news as GM’s stock jumped nearly 10% by mid-morning.
The investment does have a curious dilemma tied to it: SoftBank is a huge investor in Uber while GM has a partnership with Uber’s top rival Lyft. No short-term answer is forthcoming, but GM CEO Mary Barra told reporters that GM has a lot of options in terms of ride-sharing and no decisions have been made as to how to bring autonomous technology to the market.
She did offer that the fate of the technology was so open that GM could bring it out on its own or find another partner to use it.
(Waymo set to purchase 62k Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans for autonomous ride-share service. Click Here for the story.)
In the interim, Barra is content to explore what the new deal means for the advancement of the technology.
“We are demonstrating our commitment to that vision” of “zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” Barra said. It’s that commitment, and the progress the company has made that drew the attention of SoftBank.
Michael Ronen, managing partner of SoftBank Investment Advisors, said that GM was the clear leader in developing self-driving technology and called the company’s move to acquire Cruise Automation “one of the most transformative tech acquisitions ever,” Ronen said.
(Click Here for more about SoftBank’s $1.4 billion investment in Uber.)
That leadership position may have gotten a little less secure today as Waymo announced plans to purchase 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans.
FCA previously committed to providing several thousand of the plug-in people-movers. Waymo has also committed to purchasing up to 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace battery-electric SUVs, and CEO John Krafcik has told TheDetroitBureau.com that it expects to add still other models for use in the planned self-driving ride-share service that is currently in pilot testing in Phoenix.
Commercial service will launch in that city later this year, Krafcik announced in March, and will eventually expand to “other” cities across the U.S.
(To see more about GM asking for federal approval to launch driverless robe-cabs in 2019, Click Here.)
SoftBank’s investment will be made in two rounds, starting immediately with $900 million. When autonomous vehicles are ready, the remaining $1.35 billion will be made available, “subject to regulatory approval,” GM said. Once complete, SoftBank Vision Fund will own 19.6% of GM Cruise with GM holding the rest.