Microsoft GM-backed self-driving technology startup Cruise
Cruise announced Tuesday that Microsoft, together with existing investors General Motors and Honda, as well as some institutional investors, injected an additional $2 billion in a new round of funding, bringing Cruise’s post-money valuation to $30 billion.
However, the Microsoft deal is more than just a pure investment play. Microsoft and Cruise plan to work together, with Cruise set to leverage Microsoft’s Azure cloud and edge computing platform for its future fleet of self-driving cars. GM, Cruise’s biggest shareholder, already uses Azure for its cloud computing needs.
“As Cruise and GM’s preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream,” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said in a statement.
Microsoft will also be able to enhance Azure’s services to better suit transportation companies by tapping Cruise’s fleet-management know-how, according to Cruise.
Cruise is testing self-driving prototypes in a number of cities, and some of them are testing without a human behind the wheel. Cruise’s prototypes rank at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability, as the cars are limited in the areas in which they can operate on their own. The final goal is Level 5, where a self-driving car is able to operate at the same level as a human driver. While Level 5 might be a decade or more away, companies plan to start offering commercial services involving Level 4 self-driving cars much sooner.
In early 2020, Cruise unveiled a self-driving shuttle called the Cruise Origin that the company said would enter a limited service in 2021, likely in San Francisco where Cruise is headed and conducts most of its testing. Cruise last fall also said it would trial an automated delivery service with Walmart starting in early 2021. The delivery service will cover parts of Scottsdale, Arizona.