Walmart is investing in self-driving startup Cruise as part of a massive $2.75 billion investment round in the company—an expansion of the $2 billion round announced in January. That original announcement featured three other big names: GM, Honda, and Microsoft.
Cruise was originally an independent startup but was acquired by GM in 2016. GM has poured billions into the company and has increasingly sought additional financial support from outside investors.
Recently, Cruise has been signaling that it is just a couple of years away from launching its technology commercially. Earlier this week, Cruise announced that it would launch a self-driving taxi service in Dubai in 2023. Cruise CEO Dan Ammann then told Bloomberg that he expected to launch a commercial service in San Francisco prior to launching in Dubai.
Ammann also said that Cruise was planning to start production of the Origin—its custom-designed driverless shuttle—in the “later part of next year or the early part of 2023.” But he said it was “possible” that Cruise would begin offering rides using its existing fleet of GM Bolts in San Francisco earlier than that. This suggests that Cruise is aiming to launch its San Francisco service in 2022 or 2023 at the latest.
But Cruise, like several of its rivals, has missed self-imposed deadlines before. In January 2018, Cruise said it would launch a driverless robotaxi service by the end of 2019. That never happened, and now Cruise is once again predicting that a commercial launch will happen in about two years.
Cruise and Walmart announced a pilot project last November for Cruise to run a delivery service for Walmart in Scottsdale, Arizona. But Walmart’s relationship with Cruise is far from exclusive. Walmart has also done pilot projects with Waymo, Ford, Nuro, and Udelv. On the other hand, I can’t find any announcements that Walmart has invested in these other companies.