GM's Autonomous Driving Unit Cruise to Tap $5 Billion Credit Line to Mass Produce the Origin Autonomous Shuttle

GM's Autonomous Driving Unit Cruise to Tap $5 Billion Credit Line to Mass Produce the Origin Autonomous Shuttle

Author: Eric Walz   

Cruise, the autonomous driving unit of automaker General Motors, plans to access a $5 billion line of credit to finance the purchase of tens of thousands of Cruise Origin shuttles, a commercial autonomous ride-hailing vehicle being built by GM, Honda Motor Co and Cruise.

The funds will be made available through GM's automotive financing arm GM Financial. The $5 billion line of credit will be used to finance the expansion of the Cruise fleet over the next several years, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a blog post.  

The funding lifts Cruise's total war chest to over $10 billion and its looks to take on Uber and Lyft. 

Cruise plans to deploy tens of thousands of the multi-passenger Origin autonomous shuttles, which have no steering wheel or brake pedals, as part of a commercial ride-hailing service. The Origin is the first production vehicle purposefully built by a global automaker without a steering wheel or brake pedal.

The Origin is designed for commercial use and can be outfitted to carry passengers or cargo for autonomous delivery. Cruise is also working on an app that riders can use to hail a self-driving Origin, similar to the Uber and Lyft model.

Cruise is currently testing its robotaxi service in San Francisco using a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs, which collectively have traveled over 2 million miles on public roads in San Francisco. 

The Origin shuttle was first unveiled in Jan 2020, right before the pandemic hit. But Ammann said that the development work continued on schedule. The program remained on track throughout the past year and Ammann said the Origin is almost ready for production at GM's Factory ZERO assembly plant. 

Ammann served as the President of GM from 2015 to 2019 before being tapped to head Cruise

A team at GM's Pre-Production Operations center has already started building the first batch of nearly a hundred pre-production Origins. The machinery for mass production is currently being installed at GM's Factory ZERO.

Factory ZERO will be GM's premier electric vehicle plant once its completed. As part of the automaker's plan for a zero emissions future, Factory ZERO will only build electric vehicles. GM is investing $2.2 billion in the facility for retooling and upgrades in order to build EVs at scale. The investment by GM It represents the single largest investment in a plant in the automaker's history.

The facility will be packed with advanced technology with a focus on sustainable manufacturing. In addition to building the Cruise Origin, production of the GMC Hummer EV pickup is set to begin in late 2021.

In April, Cruise announced a long-term strategic relationship with retailer Walmart to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving vehicles. 

Walmart joined Microsoft, GM, Honda and other institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2.75 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation to $30 billion as the company prepares to transform how people get around in cities in the U.S., starting with San Francisco. Microsoft will serve as Cruise's preferred cloud provider.

In 2016, GM invested around $1 billion for a majority stake in Cruise when it was still a relatively unknown San Francisco startup working on self-driving technology. Part of GM's investment was intended to jumpstart its own work on self-driving cars. Now all of the pieces are falling into place to build the Origin shuttle and deploy them as part of a massive autonomous ride-hailing service.

To support the rollout of the Cruise robotaxi service, the company filed a project application with the city of San Francisco in February to build what it calls one of the "largest electric vehicle charging stations in North America" to charge its growing fleet of self-driving electric vehicles. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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