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G.M. Expands Self-Driving Car Operations to Silicon Valley

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Mary T. Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, is seeking to expand and accelerate the company’s development of self-driving cars.

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Paul Sancya/Associated Press

In the race to develop self-driving cars, General Motors is expanding its operations near Silicon Valley.

The automaker said on Thursday that it planned to hire 1,100 people and invest $14 million at a new development center in San Francisco that would spearhead the company’s work on self-driving cars.

G.M. and Cruise Automation, an autonomous-driving software company G.M. acquired a year ago, have been testing more than 50 Chevrolet Bolt electric cars equipped with self-driving technology on public roads in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and the Detroit area.

The new investment and hiring are intended to expand and accelerate their work, G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said in a statement.

“Running our autonomous vehicle program as a start-up is giving us the speed we need to continue to stay at the forefront of development of these technologies and the market applications,” she said.

The move comes as traditional automakers are rushing to partner with and acquire technology companies amid a global race to develop cars capable of driving themselves safely with little input from passengers.

In February, Ford Motor said it planned to invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company, as part of its own push to develop self-driving cars. Ford has also vowed to begin production of a fully automated car — with no steering wheel and no pedals — by 2021. Similar efforts are underway at Audi, BMW and other car companies.

The automotive giants are competing with technology companies that appear to be leading the self-driving race. Google’s automated car subsidiary, Waymo, has racked up more than 200 million miles of driving with various test vehicles, while Tesla already offers its semi-automated Autopilot system in its electric vehicles.

The ride-hailing service Uber is also ramping up testing of autonomous cars, while chip maker Intel is moving into the same space after acquiring Mobileye, an Israeli maker of camera systems that allow cars to steer and brake themselves.

Traditional automakers from Detroit and around the world are responding by trying to build a greater presence in the Silicon Valley region, to compete for both technology and engineering talent.

G.M. plans to introduce a system called SuperCruise as an option in certain Cadillac models, possibly by the end of this year. SuperCruise is supposed to be capable of piloting a car on limited-access highways, although it will require drivers to keep their eyes on the road.

SuperCruise is partly based on technology developed by Cruise Automation. G.M. acquired Cruise for a reported $1 billion.

G.M.’s investment will upgrade an existing location in San Francisco that will more than double Cruise Automation’s research and development space.

“As autonomous car technology matures, our company’s talent needs will continue to increase,” said Kyle Vogt, Cruise Automation’s chief executive. “Accessing the world-class talent pool that the San Francisco Bay Area offers is one of the many reasons we plan to grow our presence in the state.”

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