By on April 15, 2021

General Motors backed autonomous vehicle startup Cruise has reportedly scored $2.75 billion from its last round of funding, with Walmart again taking a particular interest in the company. The multinational retail corporation previously participated in a pilot program where Arizona-based shoppers could call upon a Cruise AV to have their groceries delivered. While just one of several autonomous programs Walmart is involved with, the relationship with Cruise must be in fairly good shape to throw that kind of money into a business that seems to have missed more deadlines than it has kept — even if that does seem to be the trend for AV startups. 

The funding has managed to elevate Cruise’s valuation to more than $30 billion, though its January deal with Microsoft also played a significant role. A couple of months ago, General Motors announced a strategic relationship with the tech firm aimed at commercializing AVs while providing technical support for Cruise. That deal came with a new equity investment of more than $2 billion, which Microsoft led.

“Our mission to bring safer, better, and more affordable transportation to everyone isn’t just a tech race – it’s also a trust race,” Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said at the time. “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.”

For those keeping score, this is the third automotive firm we’ve seen deploy the phrase “democratization of technology” since the start of 2021. But it’s the first time we’ve seen the military term “force multiplier” used to make it seem like this will be the thing that finally gives AV development the kick in the pants it needs.

According to Reuters, Walmart will not be suspending any existing partnerships it has with other AV companies. In fact, the business sees all of this as a way to see which organizations (e.g. Cruise, Waymo, Nuro, etc.) have the most to offer and how that might be integrated into the business.

From Reuters:

The retailer is preparing for a future when shoppers don’t have to drive to the store and is trying out a number of different technologies, including drones. The cost of getting deliveries to customers’ doorsteps across the nation is often prohibitive, and it’s a big reason why Walmart’s domestic e-commerce business is still losing money.

Walmart’s test to use Cruise’s all-electric self-driving vehicles to deliver groceries from a store in Scottsdale, Ariz., is still in the early phases and hasn’t been expanded to other cities, the spokeswoman said.

Efforts to develop self-driving vehicles have picked up pace in recent months. California has approved more robotaxi testing on public roads, granting its first commercial permit for autonomous-vehicle deliveries last month to Nuro.

The investment is the latest sign of consolidation in the self-driving sector as big companies like Honda Motor Co., Walmart and Microsoft move in. Zoox Inc. sold to Inc. last year, and Cruise itself recently acquired autonomous-vehicle startup Voyage, which operates a service in retirement communities.

“We are focused on our path to commercialization right now but the IPOs happening in the space right now are a great indication of the strength of the industry and the opportunity self-driving presents,” the Cruise spokeswoman told the outlet.

[Image: General Motors]

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5 Comments on “Cruise AV Company Raises $2.75 Billion in Latest Funding Round...”

  • avatar

    “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology” – Dan Ammann

    I must be losing my grip on reality.

    • 0 avatar

      Hard to believe this guy was once in line to head GM. He still might, if the market gets tight for industrial BS (use your oen euphemism – Baby Shoes? Bolshoi?).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Q: How much time and money is needed to get autonomous vehicles working?

    A: Just a little bit more.

    I used to work for a key supplier to Walmart’s logistics chain. Rather than being cautious, they were actually very interested in trying anything that would cut their logistics costs. This is also why they have pre-ordered so many Tesla Semi trucks.

    A few billion invested here and there is pocket change, well worth it to improve the bottom line. After all, Walmart is really just a goods mover, and they keep prices low by cutting transportation and handling costs.

    Having said that, I doubt that any AV tech has a solid future.

    • 0 avatar

      “Having said that, I doubt that any AV tech has a solid future.”

      There is AV tech, that has a future, but it isn’t what they are pushing or developing with now. They’re headed down the wrong path and those of us competing with them are fine to let them go down it for now. There are definitely limits to the technology they are using.

      There’s a lot of basic research that needs to be done and that’s going to take time. When we do get it, it will be clearly better than a human. But for now, it’s at the level of early research and zoom meetings where those of us in the field discuss research papers. The current generation of AI isn’t going to cut it and many of us are researching new types of AI. We’re years away. A combination of a new generation of AI technology along with new types of sensor technology will get us there.

  • avatar

    They’re investing a lot of money to replace the pizza delivery guy concept. The real innovation is remote ordering and paying – the old five and dime stores in the early 20th century had warehouses and fleets of trucks for home delivery, though mostly bulky items.

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