Softbank sinks billions into GM self-driving vehicle program

By Susan McFarland  |  May 31, 2018 at 2:47 PM
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May 31 (UPI) -- Japan's Softbank will invest $2.25 billion in General Motors' autonomous vehicle program and the U.S. automaker will add $1.1 billion, the companies said Thursday.

The deal gives SoftBank a 19.6 percent equity stake in the program, called GM Cruise. SoftBank will release the first tranche of funds, $900 million, at the closing of the transaction. When the Cruise autonomous vehicles are ready for commercial deployment, $1.35 billion will be allocated to GM.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said the investment strengthens plans to commercialize technology for the vehicles, which won't have traditional driver controls like a steering wheel and pedals. Instead, there's a touchscreen.

"[We] have made tremendous progress over the last two years," Barra said. "Teaming up with SoftBank adds an additional strong partner as we pursue our vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion."

Softbank managing partner Michael Ronen said the GM Cruise approach of a fully integrated hardware and software stack gives the company a competitive advantage.

"We are very impressed by the advances made ... and are thrilled to help them lead a historic transformation of the automobile industry," Ronen said.

GM President Dan Ammann said the company is excited to be joining forces with a tech leader who shares the company belief that autonomous vehicle technology will change the world.

The GM and SoftBank investment should put the Cruise on the road in 2019.

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