GM’s Cruise division doesn’t want to rely on third-party manufacturers for the chips powering its autonomous vehicles — so, it’s making its own. Based on what Carl Jenkins, the company’s VP for Hardware Engineering, told Reuters, the main motivator for the switch is the lofty costs associated with paying for other companies’ chips.
“Two years ago, we were paying a lot of money for a GPU from a famous vendor,” Jenkins told the news organization, referring to NVIDIA. He explained that Cruise couldn’t negotiate because it wasn’t mass manufacturing autonomous vehicles just yet. Its technology is still in its experimental stages, and while it recently became the first company to secure permission to charge for driverless rides, its operations remain limited. By making its own chips, Cruise — like Tesla, Apple and Volkswagen before it — is taking its future into its own hands.
Jenkins has revealed that Cruise had already developed four chips at this point, starting with Horta, which was designed to become the main brains of the vehicle. Dune will process data from sensors, while another chip will process information from the radar. Yet another one will be announced at a later date. These components will power the Cruise Origin, the self-driving electric shuttle the company first announced back in 2020. The Cruise Origin will have no steering wheel or pedals and will instead have four seats inside facing each other. It’s intended to be used as a shareable vehicle that’s on the road at all times, shuttling passengers to their destinations.
Company executives didn’t say how much they spent on the chips’ development, but they believe they could recoup their investment once Cruise starts scaling up production. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said the company’s in-house chips would help Origin “hit that sweet spot from a cost perspective” by 2025 and that they make purchasing fully autonomous vehicles for personal use viable. It’s unclear if that means Cruise intends to sell the Origin to individuals, but GM chief Mary Barra announced at CES this year that the automaker wants to sell personal autonomous vehicles by the middle of the decade.