Softbank will invest $1.1 billion in GM Cruise Holdings, adding more financial muscle to General Motors’ plan to ready autonomous-driving technology for commercial implementation in 2019.
The US automaker is also committing an additional $2.25 billion of its own funds to Cruise.
GM said SoftBank, a Japanese technology and communications group that invests in new technologies, shares its belief that autonomous vehicles will mark a paradigm shift in personal mobility. “Teaming up with SoftBank adds an additional strong partner as we pursue our vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a press release.
Michael Ronen, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said GM has made “significant progress” toward fully automated driving. “The GM Cruise approach of a fully integrated hardware and software stack gives it a unique competitive advantage,” he said.
Cruise Automation, a driverless-car technology specialist founded in San Francisco in 2013, was acquired by GM in 2016.
SoftBank’s Vision Fund will make its additional investment in Cruise in two tranches. One $900 million tranche will take place as soon as the transaction closes. The second of the two tranches – $1.35 billion – will be completed once Cruise AVs are ready for commercial deployment. SoftBank will then own a 19.6% stake in GM Cruise.
GM said full-scale commercialization of the GM Cruise technology will begin in 2019.
Softbank’s Vision Fund, one of the world’s biggest investors in technology, is backed by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Daimler is also said to be one of the more recent investors in the fund. A Daimler spokesman declined to comment.
-By Arjen Bongard