Bringing self-driving shuttles to the streets clearly takes a village. Today Microsoft announced that it will be investing in and supplying technology to GM’s Cruise robotaxi service. Microsoft will be part of a group of investors, including Honda, that put more than $2 billion into Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of the company up to $30 billion.
On the technology front, Cruise will use Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and the company’s Edge computing platform to power the back end of the startup’s self-driving shuttles. By leveraging the power of Microsoft’s tech, Cruise will be able to scale much quicker than if it tried to build these systems on its own.
The partnership also makes Microsoft a GM preferred cloud partner as the automaker scales up its artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities. “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,” said GM CEO Mary Barra in a statement.
Cloud platforms and accompanying technologies allow companies to offload the processing power needed to tackle intensive tasks like AI and machine learning that make self-driving technology possible. “As Cruise and GM’s preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.
But it’s not just about building a vehicle that drives on its own, GM also stated that the automaker will “explore opportunities with Microsoft to streamline operations across digital supply chains, foster productivity, and bring new mobility services to customers faster.”
Cruise has been testing its fleet of specially outfitted Chevy Bolt EVs on the streets of San Francisco since 2016 as it tries to crack the self-driving problem. Recently, the company completed its first drive in the city without a driver behind the wheel in one of those Bolts. In January of 2020, it unveiled its Origin autonomous shuttle that will be the commercialization of these efforts. The vehicle will be built by GM at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant which has been renamed Factory Zero.
For now, there’s no word on when the Cruise Origin will be on the streets offering up driverless rides to passengers powered by Microsoft’s services. What we do know is that GM is not alone in its efforts to offer up robotaxis. Amazon, Cadillac, and other companies with self-driving tiny buses are also trying to figure out ways to eventually transport us around town without a human behind the wheel.
From: Car and Driver
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