April 15, 2016 / 2:09 AM / in 3 years

Cruise Automation ex-partners sue each other after GM deal

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - General Motors Co’s (GM.N) pending acquisition of self-driving car startup Cruise Automation has touched off a legal spat between two former collaborators over their ownership stakes in the company.

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant in Lansing, Michigan October 26, 2015. Photo taken October 26. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

In a complaint and cross-complaint filed in Superior Court in San Francisco, Kyle Vogt and Jeremy Guillory dispute the nature of their former partnership during the development of Cruise Automation, which makes technology allowing cars to be converted into autonomous vehicles.

Vogt sued Guillory denying he was a Cruise co-founder and saying Guillory had made “extortionary” claims to him in the wake of the announced acquisition of Cruise Automation by GM in March. GM did not disclose the price paid, but Guillory’s suit repeats reports that GM offered up to $1 billion.

Guillory counter-sued on Thursday, saying in court filings that the technology was first developed by Guillory before the two agreed to work together in October 2013, when Vogt agreed Guillory would be a 50 percent equity owner in Cruise.

“This case is about whether a founders’ agreement means anything in today’s Silicon Valley start-up culture, or if naked ambition, a desire to take all the credit, conceit and greed for the very last dollar now rule the day,” reads Guillory’s cross-complaint.

Their collaboration was short-lived. Vogt told Guillory that he no longer wanted to work with Guillory on the Cruise project in November 2013, according to Guillory’s complaint.

About five months later, Cruise retrofitted an Audi A-4 prototype with the self-driving technology that allows certain models of cars to pilot themselves on highways.

In GM’s announcement of the Cruise acquisition, Vogt is cited as a co-founder along with Daniel Kan, who joined the company in 2014 as chief operating officer, according to his LinkedIn page.

“We are aware of the complaint filed by Cruise Automation and support their efforts to bring the matter to a prompt conclusion. We expect our acquisition to close on schedule in the second quarter,” said GM in a brief statement on Thursday. 

GM plans to use Cruise’s technology to speed up its efforts to develop vehicles that can operate without a human driver, possibly as part of ride-sharing fleets.

Cruise Automation, which currently has about 40 employees, is to operate as an independent unit within GM, with headquarters in San Francisco.

Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by Andrew Hay

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