GM self-driving company hires former Delta executive as COO
Cruise LLC, the self-driving car startup majority owned by General Motors Co., has hired former Delta Air Lines Inc. Chief Operating Officer Gil West for the same position as it prepares to start offering paid robotaxi rides in San Francisco.
West is the second former Delta executive hired by GM and its related companies in recent months. The Detroit automaker hired Paul Jacobson as its chief finance officer in October.
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The creation of the new COO role comes as Cruise is gearing up to start bringing in revenue from its planned commercial robotaxi business. The company received a permit to run five autonomous cars without a safety driver last year and began testing them on public roads in November.
“Gil’s track record of delivering amazing customer experience, exceptional operating performance and flawless safety, all at large scale, is a perfect fit for Cruise as we begin the journey to commercialize our self-driving technology," Cruise Chief Executive Officer Dan Ammann said in a statement.
Cruise hasn’t set a date to begin charging fares for its driverless rides but is preparing to do so. The company needs permission from California and is working on that next step. Cruise had originally targeted December 2019 to run a service on public roads but later walked back that goal when it become unlikely to achieve it. The startup has said it’s fine-tuning its technology and working with both state and federal officials to meet regulatory requirements.
Cruise is one of a handful of driverless-technology companies jostling for a piece of the nascent self-driving car market. Another startup, Nuro Inc., won approval last month from California to become the first in the state to begin commercial deliveries in autonomous vehicles.
West retired from Delta in September after 12 years at the carrier, where he helped lead the integration of its 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines. During his tenure, Delta achieved industry-leading reliability and customer service but also had to contend with a massive computer-network failure in 2016 that forced the cancellation of more than a thousand flights when backup systems failed to kick in.