GM's Cruise Automation Hires Former Uber Security Experts

Well known automotive cyber-security experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have been hired by Cruise, GM's self-driving car division.

Eric Walz
    Jul 31, 2017 12:53 PM  PT
GM's Cruise Automation Hires Former Uber Security Experts
author: Eric Walz   

SAN FRANCISCO — Well known automotive cyber-security experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have been hired by Cruise, GM's self-driving car division.

A GM spokeswoman said Monday that Miller and Valasek also would be integrated into GM's cybersecurity team led by Jeffrey Massimilla, chief product cybersecurity officer since 2014.

Miller and Valasek achieved fame in 2015 for hacking a Jeep Cherokee and taking control of various systems within the car. The demonstration raised public fears of self-driving car hacking.

That effort was on their own dime, but they were subsequently hired by Uber as part of the San Francisco-based company's self-driving car initiative.

Five months ago, Miller quit Uber for Didi Chuxing, the Chinese company that bought Uber's assets there in 2016 and then opened artificial intelligence lab in Silicon Valley. He was hired to be head Didi's security and safety development teams, in part to aid its effort to create autonomous vehicles.

Meanwhile, Valasek stayed behind at Uber, severing what had been a fruitful partnership between two men who are clearly great friends, given the banter between them when they present at computer security conferences.

On Friday, Miller tweeted that he was leaving Didi, calling his experience there a "short but amazing ride." Valasek soon tweeted at him asking about "getting the band back together."

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Their separation ended over the weekend when they announced that they are both going to work at Cruise, which began as a San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle company that GM bought for more than $1 billion last August, according to a report by Recode.

Security Concerns High Among Automakers

Cruise and other automakers increasingly are trying to develop more of their self-driving car technology in-house, including security technology, frequently at operations based in Silicon Valley.

For example. Ford recently invested $1 billion in Argo AI, a new company aimed at developing the software necessary for cars to make sense of the data coming in from myriad on-board sensors.

Also, Lyft recently announced that it would soon open a Silicon Valley office called Level 5, a new building in Palo Alto, California (named after the highest level of self-driving autonomy) that will eventually house hundreds of engineers working on the ride-hailing company's self-driving tech.

Lyft rival Uber also has a large self-driving car program, based in Pittsburgh, but its work has been hampered recently due to the ongoing lawsuit from Google self-driving car company Waymo, as well as the exit of top talent from the troubled company.

Waymo claims that Uber's light detection and ranging software was developed partly thanks to 14,000 proprietary files stolen from Google by its former employee Anthony Levandowski, who went on to found self-driving truck company Otto, which Uber bought for around $690 million last summer. Lewandowski has since been fired from Uber over the accusations. The trial is expected to begin in October.

GM announced earlier this year that it will invest $14 million in a new autonomous-driving R&D center for Cruise in San Francisco, and add 1,100 jobs over the next five years. It's also ramping up production of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV test cars, which are currently being tested in California, Arizona, and Michigan.

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