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Romulus — General Motors Co.’s Cruise Automation autonomous vehicle software start-up now has 100 employees, up from 40 when GM acquired it, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said Thursday.

Barra, who was a keynote speaker at the World Mobility Leadership Forum held at Detroit Metro Airport, said people want to work on something that will be commercialized.

“That’s been one of the reasons that we’ve been able to grow this very specific type of resource of software artificial intelligence machine learning type of skill set and attract the talent because they see General Motors’ commitment,” Barra said.

GM announced in March that it would buy Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based software company that it hopes will quicken its development of autonomous vehicle technology.

The automaker spent $581 million, including $300 million cash, on its purchase of Cruise Automation. The Cruise team also is testing fleets of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt said earlier this month at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference that Cruise and GM have close to 30 self-driving vehicles operating in San Francisco and Scottsdale.

Cruise, founded in 2013, had 40 employees in March. It is operating independently within GM’s autonomous vehicle development team and workers remain based in San Francisco. Barra said GM tasked a specific few people to work directly with Cruise and to provide them resources they need but allows them to work fast. She said that allows Cruise to continue operating as a start-up.

Barra said she regularly talks to Cruise’s leadership team, including Vogt and Daniel Kan and tells them: “If we’re doing something that’s slowing you down, let me know.”

“We’re really driving that start up culture of speed into the entire corporation,” she said.

Barra was asked by K.C. Crain, director of corporate operations for Crain Communications Inc., about Ford Motor Co.’s recent statements that its mobility services could produce 20 percent profit margins. Barra would not provide a figure for GM’s plans but said it sees opportunity in the space if it executes well.

Following the Cruise acquisition, GM saw a more than 20 percent increase in traffic at its careers section at gm.com, Barra said.

Vogt, earlier this month at the TechCrunch conference, said it has been able to acquire engineers seeking both experience at a “fast-moving technology company coupled with a company that has the ability to manufacturer those vehicles in scale.”

But Barra said it’s not just Silicon Valley that is landing top talent.

“It’s people, though, that want to do really cool things, that want to make a difference and want to change the world,” she said Thursday. “If you’re a company that is demonstrating you’re moving quickly and you’re committed, we’re able to attract talent.”

mburden@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2319

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