General Motors and its autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise are moving into the cloud, specifically the Microsoft cloud, as all three have entered into an agreement designed to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving vehicles.
The trio will join forces to merge their software and hardware engineering as well as manufacturing knowledge and cloud computing expertise in an effort to make an impact on mobility.
“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 in a statement. “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.”
The deal calls for a new equity investment of $2 billion by Microsoft and GM as well as Honda Motor Co. and other institutional investors, raising Cruise’s valuation to $30 billion, GM noted.
The San Francisco-based Cruise will use Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure to “commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale,” meaning that Cruise will use the service to help manage its self-driving fleet as it moves from the testing phase into acting as ride-hailing service.
Currently, Cruise is currently testing its vehicles on the streets of San Francisco without drivers. The testing began in November and represents a significant challenge as navigating the roads there is 40 times more complex than driving through the suburbs.
Other autonomous vehicle companies, most prominently Waymo, have been transporting customers with driverless vehicles. However, they’ve been done in the suburbs of large cities. In Waymo’s case, it’s been testing its vehicles in a Phoenix suburb.
“As Cruise and GM’s preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous
transportation mainstream,” Microsoft’s Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said.
Microsoft gets the benefit of improving its product innovation capabilities on a massive scale. Likely a steep learning curve, it can benefit the tech giant as it looks to pitch similar services to other companies on a global basis.
GM will also use Microsoft as its “preferred public cloud provider” to speed up the company’s digital efforts, such as artificial intelligence. It will also use the technology to help streamline operations across digital supply chains while bringing new mobility services to customers faster.
“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 commercialization of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize 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.”