Cruise has raised $2 billion in a new equity round that has pushed its valuation up to $30 billion and delivered Microsoft as an investor and partner. GM, Honda and other institutional investors have also put more capital into Cruise as the autonomous vehicle company inches closer to commercializing its technology. While Microsoft’s capital is important, the partnership might provide equal and longer-term value for Cruise, at least in the two companies’ views. Under the long-term strategic partnership, Cruise will use Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, for its yet-to-be launched autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service.
Any autonomous vehicle company aiming to commercialize — meaning bring their tech to the public at scale — needs a robust cloud computing platform. Operating fleets of self-driving vehicles that will shuttle people and even packages generates a massive amount of data, making cloud services one of the bigger costs for an AV company. Cruise’s partnership with Microsoft aims to provide benefits for both companies. Cruise will be able to lock in lower prices for cloud services and Microsoft will be able to test some of its bleeding-edge systems that can handle workloads needed to bring machine learning and robotics — like autonomous vehicles — to life and at scale.
“Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement. “As Cruise and GM’s preferred cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.” The partnership extends to GM as well, according to Tuesday’s announcement. Microsoft will be GM’s preferred public cloud provider to help the automaker accelerate several of it digitization initiatives as well as streamline operations across digital supply chains.
The partnership will not only allow Cruise to accelerate the commercialization of its all-electric, self-driving vehicles, it helps “GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said.