The race to lead America’s self-driving car market moved up a gear with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler announcing major deals. Japan’s SoftBank is putting $2.25bn (£1.7bn) into GM’s autonomous unit Cruise, one of the biggest single investments in self-driving technology.
And Google-owned Waymo is buying up to 62,000 Fiat Chrysler minivans for its autonomous fleet. Meanwhile, Uber’s boss says it may work with Waymo on self-driving tech. The SoftBank deal saw GM’s shares jump more than 10%, the biggest one-day gain since the company re-listed on Wall Street after its 2009 bankruptcy.
SoftBank will take a 19.6% stake in Cruise. The partnership values Cruise at $11.5bn, a triumph for GM which was criticised for over-paying when it bought the start-up two years ago for $1bn. RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak said the deal confirmed that GM was one of the top contenders to deploy self-driving vehicles. “GM has a meaningful seat at the table,” he said. Uber car ‘failed to identify’ pedestrian What will stop these self-driving lorries colliding? GM chief executive Mary Barra said the company was still “on track” to begin deploying its Cruise vehicles in commercial ride-sharing fleets in 2019.
She said GM planned to launch its own ride hailing and delivery services business but could explore “other opportunities” with some of the companies that SoftBank has funded. That is a reference to the money that SoftBank’s $100bn Vision Fund has invested in Uber, Didi, Ola and Grab.