Watch GM CEO Mary Barra take her first autonomous automotive trip with Cruise

General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra speaks during a meeting with private sector CEOs hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss the Build Back Better agenda at the White House in Washington, United States, January 26, 2022 discuss.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

“It’s just surreal” General Motors CEO Mary Barra says while testing one of the company’s driverless cars in San Francisco, calling it a highlight of her career.

Barra last week rode in a retrofitted Chevrolet Bolt EV with Kyle Vogt, founder and interim CEO of Cruise, the automaker’s majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary. The self-driving vehicle, called Tostada, is one of a fleet of driverless cruise vehicles currently cruising around San Francisco at night as the company prepares for the commercialization of the operations this year.

“It was amazing,” Barra says in a video posted to Cruise’s YouTube page. He later added, “This is going to change the way people move in such a positive way… I’m over the moon.”

Vogt stepped in as CEO after Dan Ammann, a former GM executive who ran Cruise allegedly suppressed over internal disagreements with Barra.

Autonomous vehicles are seen as a potential multi-trillion dollar market. GM expects the operations to potentially contribute as much as $50 billion in annual revenue by the end of this decade. However, the commercialization of self-driving vehicles has been far more challenging than many predicted just a few years ago.

The ride was Barra’s first ride in an unmanned vehicle without a safety driver.

Late last year, Cruise began testing a fully driverless vehicle fleet with no human backup drivers. In November, Cruise posted a video of Vogt doing his first driverless drive in San Francisco.

The nearly three-minute video with Barra also shows GM President Mark Reuss and Craig Buchholz, senior vice president of GMs Communications, in another self-driving vehicle called Disco.

Reuss called the drive “amazing” and spoke about the vehicle’s performance and its potential impact on society, including seniors like his 85-year-old father Lloyd Reuss, who was also the automaker’s president in the early ’90s.

GM acquired Cruise in 2016. Since then it has attracted investors such as Honda engineSoftbank Vision Fund and more recently Walmart and Microsoft.

26-year-old CEO completes SPAC deal and brings his autonomous trucking start-up Embark public

25 year old Embark CEO and co-founder Alex Rodrigues

According to Alex Rodrigues, CEO of Embark Trucks, the congestion in US ports, the shortage of trucks and the rise in e-commerce have created a unique opportunity for autonomous trucking has completed its SPAC merger and is trading on Thursday under the ticker EMBK on the Nasdaq.

“What we’ve heard from investors is that people really understand the need here and there’s a lot of excitement about the potential to revolutionize the way logistics work,” Rodrigues told CNBC. “We’re really at a tipping point now where it really starts to affect everyday people and when people don’t get their Christmas presents the need for a solution becomes much more urgent.”

Embark was founded in 2016 by 20-year-old Rodrigues and Brandon Moak and focuses on software and assistive technology for autonomous trucking. Embark can convert existing truck fleets into autonomous fleets and works with hauliers and truck manufacturers instead of developing their own vehicles. According to the Embark website, The company’s autonomous technology can improve fuel efficiency by 10%, reduce delivery time by 40%, and increase sales per truck by 300%.

In June, Embark announced that it would be using Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp II, a special purpose acquisition company, in a $ 5.2 billion deal.

As of Thursday, Embark expects to generate gross cash proceeds of approximately $ 614 million, including a private investment of $ 200 million from Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings, the largest trucker in the country, along with venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global. Rodrigues also becomes one of the youngest CEOs of a US public company at the age of 26.

Embark is the latest in a wave of autonomous freight forwarders to go public in 2021. TuSimple‘s IPO was in April, and it works with now UPS on railways for autonomous parcel delivery. Aurora innovation went public this month in a SPAC merger.

Wedbush predicts that approximately $ 750 billion will be spent on autonomous commercial vehicles over the next five years. Embark is partnered with AB InBev, Budweiser brewer, Werner company, a trucker for large retail stores, Ryder and DHL, and others, as all industries are looking to reduce supply chain spending.

“I think we are really excited that the industry recognizes that we are here as a quality partner and that we have been able to partner with some of the best in the business,” said Rodrigues.

Walmart announced this week it is with fully autonomous trucking to move online food orders through a partnership with the start-up Gatik.

Rodrigues believes it is another tailwind for his company and its autonomous logistics. “Large established players understand the urgency and necessity of this technology. We see that as a big plus. “

Correction: Plus and Hennessy Capital Investment Corp V have terminated their merger agreement. In a previous version, the status of the deal was incorrectly stated.

Plus cash: Autonomous know-how startup provides $220M to current capital elevate

The self-driving startup Plus für Truck-Technologie Plus recently added $ 220 million to a capital increase, pushing ahead with the marketing of its Level 4 system in China this summer.

The previously announced $ 200 million Raised in February was led by CPE and Guotai Junan International.

The new money comes mainly from Chinese and Asian investors. Chinese funds FountainVest Partners and ClearVue Partners jointly led the increase.

Participants included Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc. as well as existing investors SAIC Capital, the venture arm of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. and China’s Google company Full Truck Alliance freight adjustment platform. Millennium Technology Value Partners and Sequoia also contributed.

‘Important turning point’

“With the mass production of its autonomous driving system this year, Plus has reached an important turning point for the company,” said Alex Zhang, FountainVue partner and head of the industrial group at FountainVest, in a press release.

Plus will use the additional funds to expand its global operational and commercial deployment plans for its PlusDrive autonomous driving solution. The company is in the final stages of PlusDrive’s certification for commercial operations in China, where it has 5,000 non-binding pre-orders.

The automated truck powered by PlusDrive was developed together with First Auto Works (FAW), China’s largest manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks. Pilot programs are currently underway with major commercial freight companies, including SF Express, one of China’s largest delivery fleets.

“Plus is the only autonomous freight forwarding company that has started mass production Production of its autonomous driving system this year ” said David Liu, Plus CEO and Co-Founder. “And this investment will support fuel plans to bring our automated trucks to market.”

Related articles:

Self-Driving Trucks: A 10 Billion Mile Proof Case for Plus

Chinese investors join a $ 200 million round for autonomous startup Plus

Plus to sell autonomous trucks on Chinese freight customization platform

Click here to see more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.