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General Motors buys Cruise Automation to accelerate driverless car effort

The startup is best known for its conversion kit that can transform certain types of cars into autonomous vehicles.

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General Motors President Dan Ammann (right) with Cruise Automation co-founders Kyle Vogt (center) and Daniel Kan (left).

General Motors said Friday it plans to buy San Francisco-based startup Cruise Automation to accelerate GM's development of autonomous vehicle technology.

No financial terms were disclosed, but a report from Fortune pegs the value at "north of $1 billion," in combined cash and stock.

"Cruise provides our company with a unique technology advantage that is unmatched in our industry.," said Mark Reuss, GM EVP of global product development for GM. "We intend to invest significantly to further grow the talent base and capabilities already established by the Cruise team."

In addition to technology gains, the deal also gives GM the brains behind the three-year-old startup, which is best known for its conversion kit that can transform certain types of cars into autonomous vehicles.

Looking at the bigger picture, the acquisition represents the latest step for the century-old automaker in its metered march toward autonomous and driverless vehicles.

In 2014, GM promised to introduce vehicles with improved communications technology and autonomous driving capabilities within the a few years. At the time, GM CEO Mary Barra said 2017 Cadillacs would offer the hands-free 'Super Cruise' technology as well as the inclusion of vehicle-to-vehicle features. Last year GM said it was open to collaborating with Google on developing autonomous vehicle technology.

More recently, GM sank $500 million into San Francisco-based startup ride-share startup Lyft. The long-term strategic alliance will see the companies work to develop a network of on-demand, chauffeur-less" autonomous vehicles.

As for Cruise, the startup will operate as an independent unit within GM's recently formed Autonomous Vehicle Development Team and will remain based in San Francisco.

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