Do we need $4 trillion worth of real estate for parking places?
Dan Ammann, CEO of self-driving car startup Cruise, says no.
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A pandemic has a way of making urgent topics less urgent. That in turn gives cover to entrepreneurs to work stealthily and somewhat less frantically on their products.
Autonomous driving an example. The field has gone in recent years from tomorrow to right around the corner to some time in the future to maybe one day.
I spoke last week to Dan Ammann, the former General Motors president who now runs Cruise, the majority-GM-owned self-driving car company in San Francisco. Ammann Zoomed from his home, sporting a black Chevrolet cap and a black Izod shirt. His company has grown from 40 people in 2016 to 1,800 today. It has raised $7 billion from Honda, SoftBank, T. Rowe Price, and others and is busy testing its technology on the complicated and hilly streets of San Francisco.
Every robotic car company has its own unique goals. Cruise’s goal is to operate is own ride-hailing service and to sell vehicles to other transportation companies. (It is running a service for employees only, the remnants of GM’s purchase of defunct ride-hailing pioneer Sidecar.) Ammann sees a future where Cruise’s service puts a dent in the $4 trillion worth of cars in the U.S. that occupy $4 trillion worth of parking places. Isn’t that future pretty bad for majority shareholder GM? Says Ammann: “You might as well be part of making it happen.” (It, being the future.) He also notes that GM’s profit drivers today, at least pre-pandemic, were in pickup trucks for rural customers; Cruise aims to make its money in cities.
Cruise is betting its technology will improve dramatically over time, making it safer and more commercially attractive than the competition. There is plenty of it.
I visited the premium sneaker reseller Stadium Goods’ office just after a New York snowstorm in 2017. I interviewed its CEO as part of a story I was writing about Alibaba. One of the joys of being a business journalist is learning about companies you otherwise would know nothing about. Stadium Goods has done really well since then, according to this fun piece over the weekend in WSJ Magazine.
I’ve been trading movie recommendations with friends who have middle schoolers. The goal: not too juvenile but also not too mature/disturbing/violent/adult. I’d love to hear your suggestions. My family’s last three, legal-themed films, in this order: On the Basis of Sex, Legally Blonde (it held up really well), and RBG. Two thoughts: Stay healthy, Justice Ginsburg, and The Future Is Female.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.