Dan Ammann, the number two executive at General Motors, will step down from his post as president of the company January 1 to head the carmaker’s Cruise Automation autonomous vehicle unit.

Cruise-Automation-ammann-1024x769

Dan Ammann (r) will work closely with Cruise founder Kyle Vogt (c). Daniel Kan, who co-founded Cruise is on the left (Image: GM)

The move underlines GM’s belief that it needs to further strengthen its commitment to a future dominated by driverless cars. GM also hopes that Ammann’s appointment will help speed up the carmaker’s plans to start rolling out autonomous vehicles.

Cruise Automation was founded by current CEO Kyle Vogt and Daniel Kan, COO. When Ammann becomes CEO, Vogt will take on the role of president and chief technology officer and will help set strategy and lead technical development .

“These appointments further demonstrate our commitment to transforming mobility through the safe deployment of self-driving technology and move us closer to our vision for a future with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “As we move toward commercial deployment, adding Dan to the strong team led by Kyle is the next step.”

GM earlier this week announced that it was closing several plants and reducing worldwide staff by 15 percent, as the company restructures in the face of slower demand for traditional passenger cars. The moves will contribute to cash savings of around 6 billion dollars and cost reductions of 4.5 billion dollars.

GM characterized its actions as part of a strategy to stay ahead of rapidly changing automotive market conditions. Hence, “resources allocated to electric and autonomous vehicle programs will double in the next two years,” it said in a press release.

Cruise, which was founded in 2013, has grown from 40 employees to more than 1,000. It is headquartered in San Francisco, but is in the process of opening additional premises in Seattle.

Though GM controls Cruise, Honda also recently invested in the company, as did SoftBank. GM now values Cruise at 14.6 billion dollars.