Driverless startup Cruise, a GM subsidiary, today announced the completion of a $ 2 billion equity fund from major investors Microsoft, Honda and GM.
Prelude: Microsoft’s money is the big ticket for Cruise here. While the company’s valuation has risen to around $ 20 billion by investors, the netting of one of Big Tech’s trillion-dollar whales has driven GM stocks nearly seven percent higher.
But money isn’t the only thing at stake here. According to a Reuters report, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says the company will provide cloud services for Cruise:
As Cruise and GM’s preferred cloud, we will leverage the power of Azure to help them scale and mainstream autonomous transportation.
Background: Microsoft Azure is quietly becoming a juggernaut. Not only did the big M beat Amazon for the U.S. government’s Project Jedi contract, it also recently signed a $ 2 billion contract with OpenAI for cloud services and bought GitHub.
This kind of spin and act is nothing new to Microsoft, but the timing is interesting.
Quick take: Google has worked in the self-driving vehicle space for years, and sister company Waymo seems to be constantly on the verge of commercialization. Unfortunately, the market has not moved as fast as investors hoped. Between COVID-19 and the unrealistic expectations that were set when deep learning exploded into the mainstream between 2014 and 2018, there is still not a single self-driving vehicle that is approved for unrestricted use on the roads.
Microsoft’s likely urgent market advantage at a time when AI makers are caught between big moments. The hype around 2018 has subsided and driverless cars are no longer just months away from commercialization.
The current market situation is causing Telsa to swing wildly to the left as it continues to brutally force driverless vehicles without the help of LIDAR or similar systems. Meanwhile, Cruise, Waymo, and a handful of other companies continue to work on more robust systems to solve self-driving AI.
That being said, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned competition that drives innovation. Now that Cruise has more support than just GM, there is reason to be optimistic.
Published on January 19, 2021 – 18:38 UTC