General Motors is hoping to become the leader of self-driving car technology with the gargantuan acquisition of Cruise Automation, whose founder has a local tie.
GM announced on March 11 that it purchased Cruise for more than $1 billion in a move that aims to accelerate the development of GM’s autonomous vehicle tech. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt is a 2004 graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School.
“GM’s commitment to autonomous vehicles is inspiring, deliberate and completely in line with our vision to make transportation safer and more accessible,” Vogt said in a release. “We are excited to be partnering with GM and believe this is a ground-breaking and necessary step toward rapidly commercializing autonomous vehicle technology.”
Cruise created an aftermarket kit that allows users to convert certain types of cars into autonomous vehicles for highway driving. Fortune Magazine reports that about 40 people work for Cruise. The company raised more than $18 million in venture capital funding, and its investors include Y Combinator, Spark Capital, Maven Ventures and Founder Collective.
As part of the deal, Cruise will operate as an independent unit within GM’s recently-formed autonomous vehicle team. The company will continue to be based in San Francisco. GM already works with ride-sharing company Lyft and formed a personal mobility brand for car-sharing fleets named Maven.
A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Vogt now has two billion-dollar deals under his belt. In 2006, he helped build and launch Twitch, which is self-described “the ESPN for gaming.” In 2013, Amazon acquired the firm for $1.1 billion. He also was a co-founder of SocialCam, a mobile app for video sharing. In 2011, he sold the firm to Autodesk for $60 million.
To learn more about Cruise’s technology, check out the video below.