Cruise, the young startup backed by a giant automaker, is fast proving its potential to propel General Motors into a leadership role in self-driving vehicles.
Cruise, which GM acquired in 2016, now has the backing of a renowned technology investment firm and a rival automaker, Honda Motor Co., which last week agreed to invest $2.75 billion in Cruise over the next 12 years. That includes an immediate $750 million infusion for a 5.7 percent stake in the company.
The alliance gives new credence to the San Francisco operation and intensifies its competition with Waymo, the Google-backed self-driving car operation whose partners include Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar Land Rover and AutoNation. While Waymo sees its mission as perfecting the robotic driver for all types of vehicles, Cruise and GM have focused on the vehicles themselves.
Army of talent
Honda's investment puts Cruise's value at $14.6 billion — $3.1 billion more than when SoftBank Vision Fund announced plans to invest $2.25 billion in the operations in May.
Honda's investment appears to be qualitatively different from SoftBank's, as it's expected to be more hands-on and expands the Japanese automaker's ties with GM.
As a middling player on the global stage, Honda needs such help to stay competitive against bigger rivals at home and abroad. The once fiercely independent carmaker has been confronting an era of rapid industry change by forging partnerships to tackle everything from next-generation drivetrains to autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.
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