Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 10 News List

GM invests in self-driving cars

US$14 MILLION INVESTMENT:The automaker plans to introduce a system called SuperCruise as an option in certain Cadillac models, possibly by the end of this year

NY Times News Service

A General Motors Co Chevrolet Camero ZL1 vehicle is displayed at the New York International Auto Show on Thursday.

Photo: Bloomberg

In the race to develop self-driving cars, General Motors Co (GM) is expanding its operations near Silicon Valley.

The automaker said on Thursday that it plans to hire 1,100 people and invest US$14 million at a new development center in San Francisco that would spearhead the company’s work on self-driving cars.

GM and Cruise Automation Inc, an autonomous-driving software company that GM acquired a year ago, have been testing more than 50 Chevrolet Bolt electric cars equipped with self-driving technology on public roads in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Detroit, Michigan.

The new investment and hiring are intended to expand and accelerate their work, GM chief executive Mary Barra said in a statement.

“Running our autonomous vehicle program as a start-up is giving us the speed we need to continue to stay at the forefront of development of these technologies and the market applications,” she said.

GM plans to introduce a system called SuperCruise as an option in certain Cadillac models, possibly by the end of this year. SuperCruise is supposed to be capable of piloting a car on limited-access highways, although it requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road.

GM’s investment is to upgrade an existing location in San Francisco that would more than double Cruise Automation’s research-and-development space.

“As autonomous car technology matures, our company’s talent needs will continue to increase,” Cruise Automation chief executive Kyle Vogt said. “Accessing the world-class talent pool that the San Francisco Bay Area offers is one of the many reasons we plan to grow our presence in the state.”

Traditional automakers are rushing to partner with and acquire technology companies amid a global race to develop cars capable of driving themselves safely with little input from passengers.

In February, Ford Motor Co said it planned to invest US$1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company, as part of its own push to develop self-driving cars.

Ford has also vowed to begin production of a fully automated car — with no steering wheel and no pedals — by 2021. Similar efforts are underway at Audi AG, BMW AG and other automakers.

The automotive giants are competing with technology companies that appear to be leading the self-driving race.

Google’s automated car subsidiary, Waymo, has racked up more than 300 million kilometers of driving with various test vehicles, while Tesla Motors Inc already offers its semi-automated Autopilot system in its electric vehicles.

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