General Motors autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise has received a $1.35 billion cash injection from Japanese investment firm SoftBank through its venture capital Vision Fund.
SoftBank announced it would invest $900 million in Cruise back in 2018 with the promise to invest another $1.35 billion in the company once its technology was ready for commercial deployment. With the additional $1.35 billion investment, SoftBank now owns a 19.6-percent stake in Cruise, which plans to operate a fully autonomous, driverless ride-hailing service using its dedicated Cruise Origin robotaxi.
“This major milestone brings Cruise even closer to offering its first paid rides and generating $50 billion in annual revenue by the end of the decade,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “It also means that the SoftBank Vision Fund will invest – as planned – an additional $1.35 billion in Cruise. This is another strong vote of confidence in the Cruise team, its technology and services.”
In a blog post published Tuesday, Cruise co-founder and CTO Kyle Vogt announced the company will soon begin offering free demo rides to the general public in its Chevy Bolt EV test prototypes. The company is encouraging interested parties to sign up for a demo ride through their website. “We’re starting with a small number of users and will ramp up as we make more cars available, so sign up now to lock in an early spot,” Vogt advised readers in the blog post.
The ride demos, described by GM as “the first truly driverless ridehail service offered to the general public in a dense urban environment,” will happen in San Francisco.
Looking ahead, GM is set to begin series production of the Cruise Origin at its Factory Zero plant in 2023. Cruise will eventually operate an app-based ride-hailing service with the Origin akin to Lyft or Uber, but the automaker anticipates Cruise’s service will have stronger profit margins due to the lack of a human driver.
Cruise initially said it would launch the driverless ride-hailing service to the public back in 2019, but delayed the rollout to conduct further testing and development of its software and hardware. GM acquired Cruise in 2016 for an undisclosed amount.