General Motors to expand San Francisco self-driving car unit, hire more than 1,100 people

Automaker General Motors will spend $14 million to expand its Cruise Automation self-driving car unit in San Francisco, and will hire 1,100 workers over the next five years, the firm announced April 14.

Currently, GM and Cruise are testing more than four dozen Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles equipped with self-driving technology on public roads in San Francisco, Arizona and Detroit.

“Expanding our team at Cruise Automation and linking them with our global engineering talent is another important step in our work to redefine the future of personal mobility,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a press release. “Self-driving technology holds enormous benefits to society in the form of increased safety and access to transportation.”

The car company plans to move into and re-purpose an existing facility in San Francisco, to more than double the unit’s research-and-development space. Cruise Automation should move in by year’s end, and hire more than 1,100 workers in the next five years, the company said.

“As autonomous car technology matures, our company’s talent needs will continue to increase,” said Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt. “Accessing the world-class talent pool that the San Francisco Bay Area offers is one of the many reasons we plan to grow our presence in the state.”

There will be stiff competition to bring onboard those talented employees — there are now 30 companies, including Google spin-off Waymo, Tesla and Apple, that are approved to test self-driving cars on California roads.

GM’s expansion comes thanks to allocation by Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development of an $8 million tax credit for the initiative, GM said.

“GM’s investment is further proof that California is leading the nation in the design, engineering and deployment of autonomous vehicles,” said Panorea Avdis, director of Brown’s economic development office.

GM paid between about $600 million and $1 billion for Cruise Automation in March 2016. The car maker made the acquisition “to strengthen the company’s software development capabilities and accelerate development of self-driving vehicle technology,” GM said.

 

Photo: General Motors CEO Mary Barra in 2015 announcing the company will test autonomous vehicles on public roads in Michigan. (Steve Fecht for General Motors)

 

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