General Motors announced that they are ready to begin development on a fleet of autonomous vehicles after a series of productive acquisitions building on their own industrial capability. Wall Street, notoriously reluctant to reward General Motors despite the company’s existing market share, pushed GM stock up 29 percent from the beginning of the year to $45 in October.
General Motors President Dan Ammann told reporters that the automaker’s autonomous division is now complete after their latest acquisition, Strobe. Strobe brings lidar technology to the manufacturer, considered an integral component in Level 5 autonomous vehicles. Strobe is just the final piece of the puzzle for the company. Like most established automakers, General Motors has struggled to retain investor confidence in the face of ambitious startups that promise to disrupt the traditional car sales model. Despite a healthy balance sheet and successful products, investors have flocked to money-losing upstarts like Uber and technology companies like Waymo. In response, GM launched their own ride-sharing and autonomous unit, Maven, and invested in autonomous and ride-sharing companies to insulate the business from future industry trends—including a $500 million investment in Lyft and a $1 billion purchase of San Francisco self-driving startup Cruise.
While some analysts have suggested that the company should spin-off Maven—a prospect that it is only attractive to the stock market and not a manufacturer—General Motors is confident that it’s more useful to keep all of their investments under one roof. GM is now developing their autonomous driving software, electric vehicles, and car-sharing service. Given that companies like Apple, Google, and Tesla discovered just how difficult it is to design, build, and mass produce a safe and effective motor vehicle, it should come as no surprise to automotive industry observers that GM wants to keep Maven and match it with their existing production expertise. They are already proficient in building cars, they just wanted to buy the technology necessary for autonomous systems. Now it looks like the market has taken notice.