Cruise to raise $1.35 billion from SoftBank as it readies robotaxis

By Jane Lanhee Lee and Hyunjoo Jin

(Reuters) -Self-driving tech firm Cruise on Tuesday said SoftBank Group Corp’s Vision Fund has agreed to invest an additional $1.35 billion through a second tranche, as it works to launch a commercial ride-hailing service in San Francisco.

Cruise, majority owned by General Motors, has strong financial support from its investors including Honda and Microsoft and is not planning to raise more funds from the capital markets in the near term, GM chief executive Mary Barra said.

"There is still so much that can be accomplished with a frictionless environment between Cruise and GM," she said during a conference call.

In 2018, SoftBank Vision Fund invested $900 million in the San Francisco-based startup and committed to investing another $1.35 billion when Cruise vehicles were ready for commercial deployment, which were at that time scheduled for 2019.

Dan Ammann, the previous chief executive of Cruise, said he hoped to get a regulatory permit to charge for driverless rides from California Public Utilities Commission early this year.

He stepped down in December and Cruise founder and president Kyle Vogt now serves as interim CEO.

Softbank's investment will help Cruise "quickly scale this technology" across San Francisco and into more communities, Vogt said in a blog posting.

Cruise also said that as of Tuesday it would open up the waiting list to the general public to sign up for free rides in San Francisco.

"Most people experience childlike delight during the first ride, but then the ride quickly becomes boring (as it should)," he said, adding that "One of them even fell asleep."

(Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lincoln Feast.)

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