GM places multi-billion bet on self-driving

General Motors (GM) has upped its stake in self-driving car manufacturer Cruise after buying out SoftBank’s stake.

GM has agreed to pay $2.1 billion to buy the SoftBank Vision Fund stake in Cruise, and to make a separate $1.35 billion investment in the unit.

Combined, the transactions will bring GM’s stake in Cruise to 80%, GM said. Other remaining shareholders in Cruise include Microsoft , Walmart and Honda Motor.

In 2018, SoftBank invested $900 million in Cruise and said it would invest another $1.35 billion when Cruise’s autonomous vehicles were ready for commercial deployment, potentially bringing its stake to 20%.

The SoftBank exit comes as Cruise awaits a regulatory permit to allow it to charge riders for a driverless ride-hailing service launched in San Francisco.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued permits to self-driving units of GM and Alphabet to allow for passenger service in autonomous vehicles with safety drivers present.

CPUC said the GM unit Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo are authorised to collect fares from passengers and may offer shared rides.

Prior to the announcement Cruise and Waymo had been permitted to provide passenger service only on a testing basis with no fare collection permitted.

In a statement, GM CEO Marry Barra said, “GM is leveraging the strength of its balance sheet to capitalise on the opportunity to increase its equity investment in Cruise and advance our integrated autonomous vehicle strategy.”

A GM spokesman said the latest deal showed GM’s belief in Cruise and simplified the ownership structure.

SoftBank declined to comment on the Cruise exit.

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