In a nod to a the success of the new technology, General Motors said Thursday it will hire 1,100 workers and invest 14 million dollars in a new San Francisco development center that will focus on self-driving technology. Alongside Cruise Automation, a self-driving software company acquired by GM last year, the company has been testing over 50 electric Chevrolet Bolt vehicles in San Francisco, Arizona, and the Detroit area. The new development center is expected to expand on this work.
According to a statement from GM chief executive Mary T. Barra:
“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.”
GM is not the only traditional automaker jumping on the bandwagon of autonomous driving technology. This past February, Ford Motor Company announced plans to invest 1 billion dollars in Argo AI over the next five years, in a move towards developing its own self-driving technology. Ford says it will begin production of an entirely autonomous vehicle, with no pedals or steering wheel, by 2021. Companies including Audi and BMW have announced similar plans.
These traditional automakers are playing catch-up with technology companies such as Google, Uber, and Tesla who have gotten a head start developing self-driving cars. Google’s autonomous vehicle outfit, Waymo, has 200 million miles of testing under its belt, and Tesla already offers electric cars with a semi-autonomous autopilot system. Uber has ramped up its own development in the area, and Intel has acquired Mobileye, an Israeli producer of camera systems used for self-driving vehicles.
Now, traditional automaker giants like GM are investing to build a presence in Silicon Valley, where much of the technology and engineering talent is centered. GM is planning to offer a “SuperCruise” system in select Cadillac models, possibly as early as the end of this year. SuperCruise will be able to control vehicles on limited-access highways, but drivers will still need to keep their eyes on the road. That technology was developed by Cruise Automation, which GM reportedly acquired for 1 billion dollars.
According to Cruise Automation chief Kyle Vogt:
“As autonomous car technology matures, our company’s talent needs will continue to increase. 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.”