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Car and Driver: GM Buying Aftermarket Autonomous-Driving Tech Company


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GM announced today that it is snapping up Cruise Automation, a company that makes roof-mounted, aftermarket apparatus that can provide autonomous-driving capability to existing vehicles.


In a statement announcing the deal, GM said it was acquiring the three-year-old, San Francisco–based startup “to further escalate GM’s development of autonomous-vehicle technology.” GM also said it would be making additional investments in the company, which “will operate as an independent unit within the recently formed Autonomous Vehicle Development Team.”


Presumably, then, GM wants to tap Cruise Automation’s autonomous-driving smarts to speed the arrival of the technology in GM cars. (Cadillac’s semi-autonomous hands-free Super Cruise feature, which was to debut this year, is now set to arrive in 2017.) There’s no mention whether Cruise Automation will continue to pursue its aftermarket application—the market for such a device would be huge, although the technological challenges would seem to be even more daunting than at the OEM level. According to a report in Automotive News, the company’s current offering is a $10,000 roof-mounted device that can provide on-highway, autonomous-driving capability to some late-model Audis.


The rush to develop, perfect, and deliver autonomous-driving cars has overtaken the auto industry as well as major Silicon Valley tech kingpins such as Google and Apple. General Motors’ investment in this start-up could be a sign that it’s not likely to partner with Apple or Google, in contrast to Ford, which still appears to be pursuing a tie-up with Google. Or, it could be a quick way for GM to bolster its autonomous-tech prowess, thus making it more attractive to the likes of Google or Apple. Either way, it appears we’re speeding towards a hands-free driving future.


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