Microsoft teams up with Cruise and GM on self-driving cars

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Side view of a driverless car from technology company Cruise Automation navigating the streets of San Francisco, California, with LIDAR and other devices visible, December, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Cruise and GM have enlisted an important ally in their quest to make self-driving cars a practical reality. The two have entered a “long-term strategic relationship” with Microsoft to speed up the commercialization of autonomous vehicles. Cruise will use Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform to deliver self-driving tech “at scale,” while Microsoft will draw on Cruise’s know-how to serve transportation companies. GM will treat Microsoft as its preferred cloud provider, too.

There’s money involved, to no one’s surprise. Microsoft is joining GM, Honda and investors in an equity investment of $2 billion in Cruise.

The alliance might be crucial. Cruise is increasingly shifting its attention to autonomy as a service with projects like its Origin electric shuttle, and those will depend heavily on the cloud to connect to both each other and passengers. The money, meanwhile, could help Cruise both weather the pandemic and better compete with rivals like Waymo.

It’s not as vital for Microsoft. However, this does give the company a foothold in driverless transportation as well as a high-profile customer. It might easily justify the expense for both the prestige as well as shutting out Google and other competitors.

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